WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange junior Nooha Kawsar was recently crowned the winner and fellow junior Olivia Ridley was named runner-up by a 10th of a point at the 10th annual Poetry Out Loud  (POL) competition held at West Orange High School (WOHS).

All finalists were required to memorize two poems—one of 25 lines or fewer, and one written by a pre-20th century poet—and selections had to be sanctioned by the POL Competition. Each finalist competed in rounds one and two in a randomly selected order.

Kawsar, who had the highest score after two rounds, will represent WOHS at the regional competition on Feb. 12 at South Orange Performing Arts Center. 

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The Judging Criteria included: 
• Accuracy of Memorization
• Physical Presence
• Voice and Articulation
• Dramatic Appropriateness
• Evidence of Understanding
• Overall Performance

The maximum score per judge was 33 points, and each contestant’s scores were added cumulatively. Any errors in memorization resulted in a deduction of up to seven points. In order to score well, students were expected to select difficult poetry and be flawless in their memorization and delivery of those poems. 

As judges scored the contestants, senior and Escriptus member Matt Schwartz served as emcee for the evening and senior Stanley Lim performed musical stylings on trumpet.

This year's judges were Lee Behlman, Mindy Harvat, Tynia Thomassie, Liz Veneziano, and Accuracy Judge Karen Perry. Molly Wachtel serves as advisor for Escriptus, the English Honor Society, who organized the event.

The finalists this year were as follows:

Maura Baker (9th)

Nia Caesar (9th)

Madison Gough (9th)

Nooha Kawsar (11th)

Kai McCall (11th)

Charlie Peterson (9th)

Olivia Ridley (11th)

Mariana Simpson (10th)

Round One

Kai McCall

“I, Too” by Langston Hughes

Charlie Peterson

“It Couldn’t Be Done” by Edgar Albert Guest

Mariana Simpson

“I Find no Peace” by Sir Thomas Wyatt

Madison Gough

“When You Are Old” by William Butler Yeats

Nia Caesar

“American Smooth” by Rita Dove

Olivia Ridley

“The Glories of Our Blood and State” by James Shirley

Nooha Kawsar

“Life” by Edith Wharton

Maura Baker

“I am Trying to Break Your Heart” by Kevin Young

Round Two

Madison Gough

“Fate” by Carolyn Wells

Charlie Peterson

“I heard a Fly buzz – when I died” by Emily Dickinson

Nia Caesar

“Work without Hope” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Nooha Kawsar

“Lazy” by David Yezzi

Maura Baker

“I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” by Emily Dickinson

Kai McCall

“Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

Olivia Ridley

“The Consent” by Howard Nemerov

Mariana Simpson

“Key to the Dollar Store” by Al Young