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Eduardo Cortes wins Poetry Contest
Posted On:
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
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Article courtesy of Lauren Foreman, SM Times Staff Writer 2/20/13

Eduardo Cortes, a senior at Pioneer Valley High School, memorized a selection chosen for its difficulty in what amounted to three hours.

He sectioned the five stanzas of poet John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” into three parts and committed them to memory in three hour-long study sessions.

“His memory is amazing,” said Ben Rothstein, Cortes’ AP English teacher.

Cortes took first place in the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission’s regional Poetry Out Loud competition Feb. 6 in Santa Barbara. He will go on to compete at the state level next month.

“I wasn’t really expecting to win,” Cortes said.

He remembers listening to the other contestants.

“I thought they were so good, I didn’t really have a chance,” Cortes said.

He waited in a conference room for about 20 minutes for four judges to deliberate.

They considered level of difficulty, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, physical presence, accuracy and overall performance.

Cortes competed against 18 high school students including runner-up, Reinard Bermudez, another Pioneer Valley student who recited “Two Guitars” by poet Victor Hernandez Cruz.

“I was just blown away,” Rothstein said.

Students compete in Poetry Out Loud at the classroom level, and each round of winners go on to compete at the school, then region, state, then national levels.

“The national initiative is part of an attempt to bring literary arts to students, a critical need in U.S. schools, according to a 2004 NEA report Reading at Risk that found a dramatic decline in literary reading, especially among younger readers,” said a spokesperson with the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission.

Pioneer Valley won a third-place distinction last year, the first year the school competed, Rothstein said.

Cortes will include poet David Kirby’s “Broken Promises” and author Sherman Alexie’s “The Powwow at the End of the World” in performances at the California state finals in Sacramento on March 24 and 25.

 

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