Poetry Out Loud winner headed to state

HOUGHTON – As late as a year ago, Houghton High School’s Poetry Out Loud winner didn’t like poetry.

But that changed when Cheyenne Kaufman took a poetry-heavy English class last year.

“I felt I was better able to understand it,” said Kaufman, who is in 12th grade. “So I felt confident enough to enter.”

Kaufman now goes on to the state Poetry Out Loud competition, to be held on Feb. 22.

Contestants are judged on a number of criteria, including the difficulty of the poem and their ability to convey the emotion. At the school level, Kaufman read William Wordsworth’s “The Tables Turned” and E.E. Cummings’ “I Carry Your Heart With Me.”

As a poem about nature, Wordsworth’s was a contrast with Cummings’ romantic poem, which Kaufman called her favorite. Kaufman will read Amy Lowell’s “September, 1918” for an additional poem for state.

Kaufman is working on memorizing the new poem, and also getting the most out of the old ones.

“I’m reading them in front of my mom, so I get an audience,” she said. “I’m trying to make my audience understand, so I’m trying different characterizations.”

After graduation, Kaufman plans to major in music, with an emphasis on vocals. While Poetry Out Loud won’t have a direct impact on her field, Kaufman said it’s enriched her life.

“I got a large respect for poetry, and the people who write it – a better understanding of why poems even exist,” she said. “The performing aspect I’m already used to, because I’ve been in plays, but it’s a lot different than playing a character. It’s a lot more personal.”