Sarah Beumler and Mara Aesoph

Bishop Heelan Catholic High School 11th-grader Sarah Beumler and ninth-grader Mara Aesoph will be two of the participants in the Sioux City portion of Poetry Out Loud, which is taking place at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Betty Strong Encounter Center. Winning reciters have a chance to move on to the district, state and national Poetry Out Loud competitions.

SIOUX CITY -- A recited poem is meant to convey emotions, both good and bad, as well as interpret the message of the poet.

That will be on Sarah Beumler's mind when she recites Edgar Albert Guest's "It Couldn't Be Done" during Sioux City's Poetry Out Loud competition that is taking place at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Betty Strong Encounter Center, 900 Larsen Park Road.

Currently in its 14th year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud encourages students in grades 9 through 12 to master public speaking skills and build self-confidence through the study of poetry. 

Nearly 1,200 Iowa students participate in Poetry Out Loud contests at the school and district level, reciting poetry in front of classmates and judges. After that, students can advance to the state contest in Des Moines and ultimately the national contest in Washington, D.C., April 30-May 1, where bragging rights and up to $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends will be up for grabs.

"When you recite a poem, you're internalizing the words," said Beumler, a Bishop Heelan Catholic High School 11th grader. "You're creating a scene by the way you use your voice."

Beumer is obviously good at reciting poetry. This will mark her third year in the Poetry Out Loud contest. Last year, she captured a first-place finish at the Iowa state tournament, securing a place at the nationals.

However, this year will be the first year that Mara Aesoph is eligible to compete. The Bishop Heelan Catholic High School ninth grader has been practicing Dana Gioia's "Pity the Beautiful" with coach Diana Wooley.

"This isn't like reading a poem aloud or acting out a scene," Aesoph said. "It's different."

Wooley, the executive director of Lamb Arts Regional Theatre, nodded her head in agreement.

"Poetry Out Loud requires students to 'crack' a poem's meaning," she said. "Once they're able to do that, it is amazing how excited they become."

Beumler said participants can have entirely different interpretations of the same poem. 

"People come to poetry from different angles," she said. "We bring different perceptions to the words."

Beumler became involved in Poetry Out Loud through her love of acting and music. Still, she thinks visually when it comes to interpreting poems.

"I enjoys drawing, painting and all of the visual arts," she explained. "Seeing how a poem looks on a page helps out a lot. If it looks nice and orderly, I find it more appealing."

The same holds true in math class, Beumler added.

"If a math problem is in a straight line, I can solve it more easily," she said. "I don't know why but that's usually the case."

Even though she's also involved in music, theater and art, Aesoph isn't as keen in visualizing poetry as Beumler is.

"I just want to make sure people will understand and relate to the words in the poem," she said. 

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