PCHS Senior Wins Local Poetry Out Loud Competition

Feb 14, 2019

Following a very close competition on Tuesday afternoon, Park City High School Senior Carly Herr  was named the school winner in the Poetry Out Loud competition. KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher, who served as one of the judges, caught up with Carly afterwards…

Carly Herr was one of ten competitors this year. Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation competition for high school students created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry  Foundation. She successfully recited the poem "The Layers" by Stanley Kunitz with very few errors as determined by an accuracy judge. Three other judges, scored each of the competitors on their body language, stage presence, articulation, dramatic appropriateness as well as their style of delivery.

Afterwards, Herr was ecstatic – saying winning this competition has been a long time goal of hers…

“I’ve been doing this since I was a freshman, and this is the first time I’ve ever won, and it’s been like a goal since I was literally 13 years old - so all I can think about is going to the next round.”

Herr will go to the next round of competition at the Salt Lake Marmalade Library on Wednesday, February 27th at 7 pm. The winners of the regional competitions will meet at the state competition March 13th at Westminster College. All state finalists are then invited to compete at the national competition May 1st in Washington D.C.

Herr’s English teacher Matt Nagel walked by during this interview telling her she has work to do. She says she’ll be practicing and perfecting a third poem that she’ll need if she makes it to the state competition.

“It’s just mostly about prose and how to present myself and if I can make myself louder or quieter…small things.”

She’s been working hard on those qualities she thinks will help move her along in the competition.

“I try to be as calm as I possibly can, even though I have a million, jillion nerves bundled up inside of me. But what  I think makes like a good poet and reciting it is probably like confidence and understanding of the poem, for sure.”

She will be reciting two poems at regionals:  The Layers by Stanley Kunitz and The Obligation to Be Happy by Linda Pastan.

“They spoke to me the most, probably. My first one, I’ve had it memorized for quite some years now and it’s definitely my favorite poem. It just resonates with me, I don’t know… just how it tells a story and it’s like, chronological, just going through life. And the second one is, the obligation to be happy, I mean, everyone feels it, right?”

Last year, some 300-thousand students participated nationwide. Each winner at the state level receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to compete for the national championship.

The Layers

By Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being abides,

from which I struggle not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look before I can gather strength to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling toward the horizon and the slow fires trailingfrom the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn,

I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice directed me:

“Live in the layers, not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter in my book of transformations is already written.

I am not done with my changes.


The Obligation to Be Happy

By Linda Pastan

It is more onerous than the rites of beauty or housework, 

harder than love.

But you expect it of me casually,

the way you expect the sun to come up,

not in spite of rain or clouds but because of them.

And so, 

I smile,

as if my own fidelity to sadness were a hidden vice—

that downward tug on my mouth,

my old suspicion that health and love are brief irrelevancies,

no more than laughter in the warm dark strangled at dawn.


I try to hoist it on my narrow shoulders again—

a knapsack heavy with gold coins.

I stumble around the house,   

bump into things.

Only Midas himself would understand.