NEHS Recite Night: Reviving the Love for Poetry


   The lights begin to dim, and the excited buzz of chatter filling the auditorium begins to settle. Twinkling stars shine on the stage, and the backdrop of hundreds of carefully crafted stars leaves the room breathless. Mrs. Koch, Ms. Sarah Phelps, Ms. Sunshine Phelps, and Mrs. Schwab all take their seats as judges at a table displaying 4 folders that would score everything the participants had been practicing for. Junior Natalia Montgomery and Senior Julian Villarta are both sitting near the front rows, brimming with excitement and anticipation. In just minutes, they would both be reciting poems they’ve been rehearsing for ages.

   On Friday, January 7th, NEHS held their annual Recite Night, an event in which participants have the opportunity to recite a rehearsed poem, competing for the chance to attend a state competition in March. The national champion will be awarded $20,000, and the participants are able to foster and showcase their public speaking skills, as well as come together as a community for poetry appreciation. “Recite Night is a big event that we organize every year, but since it was online during the 2020-2021 school year, we were so excited to bring it back in an in-person format,” says Rebecca Lim, junior and Treasurer for NEHS.

   For Natalia Montgomery and Julian Villarta, Recite Night meant much more than merely reciting famous poems. Rather than simply select a poem from a list, they found a more profound connection with their selected poems. According to Julian, “I recited “Feastings” by Joseph O Legaspi. I found it meaningful because the author is Filipino and I’m Filipino American! When I first read the poem, I realized that in school we rarely read literature by Asian and other BIPOC authors. I wanted to use this opportunity to showcase and give light to literature written by authors of backgrounds that we don’t see in literature provided by our current school system. I also love the poem because it really encapsulates the Filipino culture: the loving hospitality, the diversity, and the wonderful cuisines of the Philippines.” For Natalia, she claims “I recited ‘[Often rebuked, yet always back returning] by Emily Brontë. It held significance to me as I’ve always appreciated the work of the Brontë sisters, and I enjoyed the overall message of the poem of rejecting society’s expectations and forming your own path.” Both Natalia and Julian were able to find common ground and truly connect with their recited poetry, a fundamental detail of what Recite Night is all about.

   However, reciting poems in front of 4 judges and a large audience is no easy task. “Honestly, I was super nervous going up and could barely focus on the other recitations because I kept reciting my poem in my head. When I got up there, a lot of the nerves were gone since I’ve practiced so many times; it just felt natural,” says Julian. “It also helped that I could barely see the audience,” he joked. In addition, Natalia added “In the time leading up to the recitation I was incredibly nervous, and when I got on the stage I was shaking so much I felt as though my legs were giving out on me. Strangely though, despite my shaking, once on stage I felt pretty calm about my recitation.”

   Recite Night was also further restricted due to COVID protocols, something taken into account by the NEHS officers. According to Rebecca, “There were definitely some COVID-conscious precautions we took when planning Recite Night, like requiring masks for everyone. While setting up the theater, I also asked if it’d be a good idea to sanitize the mic since reciters could unmask while performing, which could lead to some transmission between reciters. So, we decided to spray down the mic with Lysol after every participant. I wouldn’t say COVID made Recite Night harder to organize, but it was an extra thing that we had to consider, along with all the other factors making up the event.”

   NEHS has just recently announced its top 10 competitors, who will be given the opportunity to compete again on February 9th. Congratulations to Sophia Lopez, Janessa Montilla, Emma Schenker, Mariana Riano, Natalia Montgomery, Isabella Rodriguez, Nitya Dave, Carolina Calonge, Julian Villarta, and Helen Godoy! After such a successful event, Rebecca reveals that there is much more in store for NEHS. “NEHS will be working hard to make the second semester as enriching and impactful as possible! The annual Poetry Slam will be happening soon! Everyone who enjoyed Recite Night should come out to Poetry Slam — it’ll be another amazing night filled with incredible talent and poetry!” Congratulations to NEHS and its participants for such an amazing event!