Senior’s first try at poetry recitation nets him second in the state

State College Area School District  |  Posted on

Relying on his resonant voice, Adam Schram finished second in the state in his first try at poetry recitation.

Adam Schram took his one-man show to Harrisburg, and the critics declared it a hit. Schram, a senior, took second place in the state in the Poetry Out Loud – National Recitation Contest, one of 15 regional finalists out of 5,700 students from 118 schools.

In the annual contest, participants recite three poems they choose from an extensive online library that spans different eras. Schram selected “Y2K” by Therese Lloyd, “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold and “Respiration” by Jamaal May. Despite not having much theater background, he proved to be a natural in his first try at poetry recitation, mainly from adopting a conversational delivery better suited to him than dramatic flourishes.

While the champion pursued a theatrical approach, Schram relied on his resonant voice, which he hopes to use someday for radio or recording. English teachers Gary Masquelier and Amy Allison helped him prepare, urging him to peruse the contest library and pick works he loved. Once he memorized his choices, they mapped out interpretations with him and listened to his recitations. From their coaching he learned about “dramatic appropriateness” — when to inject emotion and avoid sounding bland.

Schram’s inspiration for delving into an ancient art stemmed from an English class two years ago. After he recited a poem for extra credit, admiring friends with contest experience encouraged him to enter. This year, he finally took the plunge, seeking to dispel any stereotypes of poetry reading as unmanly. Though a quick study, he found performing to be a challenge. Never before had he expressed another person’s vision while standing in front of emotionless judges. Humor, pathos: Nothing prompted the slightest reaction, but Schram wasn’t fazed.

“You have to focus,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to use my brain more than in that moment.”