Re: “Wordsmith from Lewiston High School comes up short at national poetry finals” (May 2, Page B1):

This headline could not be more wrong. At the national Poetry Out Loud competition finals Wednesday evening in Washington, D.C., Joao Rodrigues Victor performed like the champion he is. I served on the judges’ panel for the State of Maine Poetry Out Loud Finals in March; this young man knocked my socks off then, and he did it again as I watched the livestream Wednesday evening. He has a dazzling stage presence, a lilting Angolan accent and a deep understanding of the poems he recites.

To call him a “poet” or “wordsmith” in the context of Poetry Out Loud is also misleading. Students do not recite their own poems; rather, they interpret poems by established poets, some classical and some contemporary. They demonstrate the strict discipline of recitation, which includes specific rules about accuracy, enunciation, performance and understanding. This discipline is difficult and exacting and requires months of practice.

Although Joao was not in the final three, this son of Maine rose to the top of a crowded and talented field, the winner in his home state and one of nine finalists in the nationals. The headline should have read: “Student from Lewiston High School makes Maine proud.”

Monica Wood


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