HOUGHTON - Three Copper Country students performed downstate Friday for the Michigan Poetry Out Loud competition.
Dana Neufeld of Houghton High School, Thomas McCafferty Rudd of Calumet High School and Paris Puuri of Jeffers High School will be among 38 students in East Lansing vying for a trip to the national finals in Washington, D.C.
Students read three poems they've chosen from an approved list. They're judged on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness and level of complexity.
At the local level, Neufeld picked Gerard Manley Hopkins' "The Windhover" and Richard Welbur's "A Barred Owl," contrasting the whimsical look of a bird with its nature as a hunter.
"Last spring, I started birding, and the birds in both of them are what caught my interest," she said. "Then I found that I really identified with the themes."
For state, Neufeld added "First Job," by Joseph Campana, which she said describes a struggle between how a person wants to be and how they are.
"It really reminds me of my struggle to be less shy, so I really identified with it," she said.
Puuri won a trip to state last year as well, but this is the first year she attended. She read "Love Song" by Dorothy Parker, "The Star" by Ann and Jane Taylor and "The Snow is Deep on the Ground," by Kenneth Patchen.
"They reminded me of different parts of my life, and I found them really interesting," she said.
Rudd, a ninth-grader at Calumet High School, read "The Death of Allegory," by Billy Collins, "Richard Cory" by Edward Arlington Robinson and "After Working 60 Hours Again For What Reason" by Bob Hicok.
"Its humor was intriguing, and its simplicity kind of veiled its inner complexity, with its language and allegory," he said of the latter poem.
To practice, Neufeld recorded herself reading the poems, then listened to them until she memorized them. She also practiced in front of her family. She continued those habits for state, with a twist.
"I've been practicing my poems, and studying the southern birds that they have downstate so that when I go down there I know what I'm seeing," she said.
Puuri practiced her poems a couple of times a week.
"I say them over and over in my head and I write them down," she said.
Rudd said the best way to prepare for Poetry Out Loud is to practice. But watching other people performing also helps, whether on YouTube or at the school competition.
Next year, Neufeld plans to attend University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where she'll double major in biology and wildlife ecology. Puuri, an 11th grader, plans to do Poetry Out Loud again next year.
"It's really cool, because I've never been interested in poems before, but this has made me interested in them, given me a great appreciation for poetry," she said.
None of the three Copper Country reciters finished in the top four, but Rudd called it a "very positive and enlightening experience," and one he'd like to repeat.
"The types of kids I've met have really been amazing, intellectual, intelligent thoughtful peers ... I think it's changed me for the better, because I've had the opportunity to get information from teachers and mentors that have appeared there," he said.