Poetry Out Loud: On Poetry, Radiance, and Warmth

As the holiday season gets closer and the bitter winds of winter filter into each breath, I am grateful to experience a sense of clarity in the process of letting go, that this time of year often brings. This month, stillness and warmth have been proliferating in all directions as poetry and literature cloud my mind. Despite the efforts of the chilling air around us trying desperately to cover everything in ice—poetry continues to provide me a radiance I’ve grown fond of.

All the while, single-digit temperatures overrun the air, and my mind drifts to the teenagers who are participating in this year’s Poetry Out Loud Recitation Contest. I wonder if the lot of them are memorizing their own poems while shivering at bus stops, waiting to get to school, telling their peers of the changes winter has brought them—along with this program, and its commitment towards their creative expression.

Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation competition founded in 2005 to inspire students and encourage their literary development. Through this competition, students obtain confidence, a critical knowledge of both traditional and contemporary writing, as well as a mastery of public speaking. Since its start, the competition has reached over 3 million students in over 10,000 schools in the nation. The Minnesota State Competition for Poetry Out Loud will take place at The Loft Literary Center this upcoming spring.

When I was in high school, most winters you could find me getting lost in the world of a poem or book, curled up (on somebody’s couch), feet tucked beneath my legs, knees nestled below my chin, a cup of hot chocolate or warm apple cider nearby, my hands gripping the bound spines of a person’s journey, or maybe their truth. My eyes sifted through the pages in droves until my body was no longer cold, and I was left full of understanding.

Reading, writing, and reciting poetry as self-care began for me out of a need for warmth that was often inaccessible. Whether due to the depressive months here in Minnesota, teenage angst, or merely curiosity, I’ve learned to place my trust in language, nature, and time. I have faith that the current students participating in Poetry Out Loud, will find the right poem to keep them radiant until the National Competitions take place this Spring 2019.


Shentoria Monaye is the Loft’s Poetry Out Loud intern for 2018-19. She is an aspiring writer, poet, and cultural critic from the Midwest, who believes that love and literature can be revolutionary. She has spent the last five years learning, consulting, and teaching with various organizations and colleges in MN on topics of intersectionality, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is currently cultivating a book of poetry centered around transformation and joy for women and people of color. In addition to her interests, she is eager to engage with folks who are interested in freedom work, and can be reached @shentoriamonaye across all platforms.