Holden advances to state final in Poetry Out Loud

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton High School ninth-grader Ilya Holden, pictured above, is among the students competing this weekend at the state Poetry Out Loud competition.

HOUGHTON — Most Poetry Out Loud contestants compete in high school through an English class.

But Ilya Holden, a ninth-grader at Houghton Middle School, didn’t want to wait.

“It’s a lot of fun to participate in, especially because so few people do it for reasons other than extra credit,” she said.

She also wants to help the school Poetry Out Loud organizer, English teacher Julie Antilla, expand the program to reach students who might want to do it.

Holden is one of two Copper Country students, along with Leah Riutta of Calumet, who will compete in the state Poetry Out Loud contest this weekend. Competitors recite poems from memory, and are judged on traits such as difficulty of the poem and their ability to convey the poem’s emotion.

This is Holden’s second year competing in Poetry Out Loud. She got her start with a smaller grade-wide version in seventh grade.

At the school level, Holden read Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Die schone Nacht (The Fair Night)” and Charlotte Bronte’s “On the Death of Anne Bronte.” At the state level, she’s adding John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Oh Could I Raise the Darken’d Veil.”

“I really enjoy Nathaniel Hawthorne as an author, just for his dark romantic style, so I specifically sought out a poem and I really connected with the meaning of the one that he had, which is all about not wanting to look in the future because you don’t know what’s going to be there,” Holden said.

If Holden advances to the final round at state, she’ll read Mary Lamb’s “Envy.” She connected with that poem because of its subject of how everyone has a skill inside of which they should be proud.

The Donne poem appealed to her, she said, for being about “how death is not really as magnificent as people make it out to be, and it’s not as powerful as people think.”

Holden applies different methods to memorize the poems, depending on length. Since her state poems are moderately short, she uses flash cards.

“All of them are rhyming poems, so I broke it down into the sections that rhyme with one another,” she said.

Holden is excited to compete at the state level.

“I’ve wanted to since i heard about it in seventh grade and I wasn’t able to last year,” she said. “So it’s very exciting even if I don’t get into the final round, even though I would love to get into the national levels.”