World Language students compete in poetry declamation contest

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Written by Golden Lines Staff Writers

A small group St. Pius X students traveled to Clemson University on Saturday, October 19 to compete in the 47th Annual Poetry Declamation Contest. Sponsored by Clemson’s Department of Languages, the event featured middle school and high school students from Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina reciting poems from memory in one of nine different languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Russian, and American Sign Language.

The St. Pius participants included 10 students from the Spanish, French, and Latin programs, and the World Languages Department encouraged students from all grade levels to compete.

“I decided I was going to do it with one of my friends,” junior Spanish III student Ellie Finch said.  “I’ve toured Clemson before and really liked it, and I liked the idea of getting to explore a campus. And I thought it’d be fun as a small group activity, like getting to ride up on the bus together.”

The competition required students to recite two poems in a language of their choice, one that was assigned to them and another they could select from a list of choices.

“We had one mandatory selection from Lucretius’ ‘De Rerum Natura’ that was pretty difficult to memorize because of the meter,” said senior Witt Hollensbe, who competed in the Latin IV category.  “It was like 13 lines, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. We also had to select a passage from a few options. Anna [Buyarski] and I memorized a passage Vergil’s ‘The Aeneid’ that was 11 lines too, so we memorized about 24 lines.”

On the day of the event, competitors recited their poems in front of a small group of Clemson professors, who scored them based on pronunciation, interpretation of the text, smoothness of delivery, and textual accuracy.

“Reading in front of the judges was not as intimidating as I thought it was going to be,” said senior Latin IV student Anna Buyarski, who earned a third place finish. “All I had to do was just stand at the front of a classroom and recite in front of two judges and a prompter. Each recitation only took about one to two minutes so it was quick and not at all stressful.”

Hollensbe acknowledged that standing in front of college professors and reciting poetry can be somewhat uncomfortable.

“It was really weird performing in front of the judges. I wasn’t really nervous, but it was awkward reading this poem in a foreign language to a room full of college professors,” he explained. 

Overall, the event was a positive and unique experience for the students.  

“I would certainly encourage others to go next year because you never know, you just might win!” Buyarski exclaimed. 

Congratulations to all participants and winners:

Latin IV

Senior Anna Buyarski (3rd place)

Senior Witt Hollensbe

Latin III

Junior Katie Fish (2nd place)

Junior Ashleigh Clark

Spanish III

Junior Ellie Finch

Junior Eden Massey

Junior Salim Miller

Spanish II

Sophomore Sofie Finch

Sophomore Abby Ryan

French I

Freshman Elle Smith