Dakota Meyer, a junior at Iowa School for the Deaf (ISD) in Council Bluffs, was named the winner of the 2013 Poetry Out Loud Iowa state competition March 3 at the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines.
The win earned Meyer $200 and $500 for ISD to purchase poetry books. Meyer will now head to Washington, D.C., in April to compete in the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, where $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be awarded. Meyer will be the second deaf student to compete in the national contest. The first deaf student to compete was from Oregon in 2009.
At the Iowa state competition, Meyer performed “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and “Miniver Cheevy” and “Richard Cory,” both written by Edwin Arlington Robinson.
Iowa is one of four states in the nation to include students fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). Students who use ASL must take the extra step to translate poems from English text into ASL in order to interpret the work in a visual format. Translations must pay attention to mood, context, register and hand-shape repetitions. Students are responsible for creating a complementary interpretation that takes into account the appropriate literary devices such as actual length and scope of poem, subject matter, underlying theme, tone and intent of the poet.
“I was really nervous and I hate that feeling,” Meyer said. “The first (poem) is always scary – seeing the crowd watching me. Plus I was the only kid using ASL. But I just try and overcome it. The second and third (poems) weren’t as bad.”
Meyer said he’s excited to visit Washington, D.C., since he’s never been there before. “I want to sight-see if possible,” he said. “And I’m also nervous to perform – because of how nervous I was when I performed at state and I think I’m going to be even more nervous (at nationals). But I’m just going to practice even more.”
Coordinated in Iowa by the Iowa Arts Council, Poetry Out Loud is a nationwide program created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation as a pilot project in 2005. The program now includes all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Students participate at classroom, school and state levels for the opportunity to compete for the national championship. More than 1,500 Iowa students competed at classroom and school levels this year, and more than 365,000 students across the country competed in the program last year.
The program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage. It also fosters the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry – recitation and performance.