Dassie Hirschfield/Contributing Photographer

We are often isolated from community arts and culture events as college students, choosing to stick to the comfort and convenience of campus. But on Friday, the community arts came to us.

Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation contest for high school students, came to Watters Theater, bringing students from Stamford Central School District to perform in the Southern Tier regional level of the competition. Contestants recited the works of greats like Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe and William Shakespeare.

Nicole Santalucia, a doctoral candidate in creative writing and head of the Binghamton Poetry Project, organized the event.

“I personally found it inspiring to organize the event because poetry was the common ground for everyone involved,” Santalucia wrote in an email. “An event like this reminds all of us that poetry is the center of our lives.”

The competition consisted of two rounds in which each of the seven participants recited one poem. The mission of Poetry Out Loud focuses on a greater appreciation of literature, public speaking skills and self-confidence. High school sophomore Ashley Conklin opened the competition with an ode to Robert Frost, bringing the timeless poem “The Road Not Taken” to life on stage.

Each student confronted the often intimidating art of poetry by interpreting the source material in his or her own way. The competition combines elements of slam poetry and spoken word with the history of poetry. It also exposes the students to new literature.

Judges included Binghamton University lecturer Joe Weil, Executive Director of the Broome County Arts Council Sharon Ball and doctoral candidate in creative writing Dante Di Stefano. Adam Brunner, an intern for the Binghamton Poetry Project and a sophomore majoring in English, served as the accuracy judge. Students were scored based on presence, articulation, understanding of the poem and accuracy, among other categories.

“Having to memorize a poem is incredibly rough … just the fact that you need to understand how the poem is meant to be spoken,” said Krislyn Gordon, a senior at Stamford and runner-up of the competition. Ninth grader Anthony Ortiz won first place at Poetry Out Loud with his recitations of William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 29” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “Alone.” Both Gordon and Ortiz will compete in a state-level competition at SUNY Albany that will determine which students will compete in the National Finals in Washington, D.C.

“This event really contributed to our goal of fostering a poetic community at Binghamton,” Brunner said. “We’re so grateful to Poetry Out Loud for holding the competition on our campus, and I definitely hope to see more outside poetry organizations taking an interest in us.”