Students recite poetry out loud

Sophomore Amanda Martinez wins school championship

Steven Baer

Steven Baer, Editor-in-Chief

When sophomore Amanda Martinez took the Poetry Out Loud stage on Tuesday, January 28, to perform “Ode for the American Dead in Asia” by Thomas McGrath, she put the audience in a trance.  Martinez, who won the school-wide competition, was one of eighteen individual classroom winners who performed in RB’s main auditorium.  While every student winner put forth tremendous performances, Martinez’ act stood out.

“Amanda’s performance moved me,” event organizer and judge Bridget Wilmot said.  “I stopped calculating scores just to listen to her.  At one point, the auditorium was the stillest I have ever heard it.  She captivated the entire audience and received perfect scores from three out of the four judges.  I was struck by the complexity of the piece and her maturity in capturing the essence of the poem.”

Martinez’ commanding recitation shocked even her own English teacher, Tom Dignan.

“Amanda has always been a good student – she participates, her writing is good.  However, this was a whole different side of Amanda that, quite frankly, I wasn’t expecting at all,” Dignan said.

He indicated that he really did not know the performance was coming when he first saw it in his classroom.

“Amanda was one of the students who never asked for my help with analyzing her poem, so I really didn’t know what she was reciting until she stood up in class.  She had us mesmerized from the first word to the last.  Her performance was truly remarkable,” Dignan said.

Martinez will now move on to the Poetry Out Loud regional performance, February 18 in Des Plaines.  For her teachers, it would come as no surprise if she won there too.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Amanda compete at regionals and represent the talented students of RB,” Wilmot said.

Overall, the competition, which involved eighteen classes over multiple grade levels, was a success.

“After the event, I felt so happy and excited,” Wilmot said.  “As always, the students wowed all of us.  From the emcee to the judges to the audience, the event was perfect.”

The RB library will be following up the event with a poetry slam/workshop in April during National Poetry Month.

Read “Ode to the American Dead in Asia” by Thomas McGrath
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God love you now, if no one else will ever,
Corpse in the paddy, or dead on a high hill
In the fine and ruinous summer of a war
You never wanted. All your false flags were
Of bravery and ignorance, like grade school maps:
Colors of countries you would never see—
Until that weekend in eternity
When, laughing, well armed, perfectly ready to kill
The world and your brother, the safe commanders sent
You into your future. Oh, dead on a hill,
Dead in a paddy, leeched and tumbled to
A tomb of footnotes. We mourn a changeling: you:
Handselled to poverty and drummed to war
By distinguished masters whom you never knew.

The bee that spins his metal from the sun,
The shy mole drifting like a miner ghost
Through midnight earth—all happy creatures run
As strict as trains on rails the circuits of
Blind instinct. Happy in your summer follies,
You mined a culture that was mined for war:
The state to mold you, church to bless, and always
The elders to confirm you in your ignorance.
No scholar put your thinking cap on nor
Warned that in dead seas fishes died in schools
Before inventing legs to walk the land.
The rulers stuck a tennis racket in your hand,
An Ark against the flood. In time of change
Courage is not enough: the blind mole dies,
And you on your hill, who did not know the rules.
Wet in the windy counties of the dawn
The lone crow skirls his draggled passage home:
And God (whose sparrows fall aslant his gaze,
Like grace or confetti) blinks and he is gone,
And you are gone. Your scarecrow valor grows
And rusts like early lilac while the rose
Blooms in Dakota and the stock exchange
Flowers. Roses, rents, all things conspire
To crown your death with wreaths of living fire.
And the public mourners come: the politic tear
Is cast in the Forum. But, in another year,
We will mourn you, whose fossil courage fills
The limestone histories: brave: ignorant: amazed:
Dead in the rice paddies, dead on the nameless hills.