Samba Traore Takes Second in State Poetry Competition


Joseph Cress

Samba Traore ’19 placed second in the Iowa Poetry Out Loud competition.

It started as a class assignment. Reciting poetry before his classmates, Samba Traore ‘19 never expected to be standing on a stage in Des Moines doing just that for judges. But on February 28, he was doing exactly that as part of the state finals of Poetry Out Loud.

Poetry Out Loud is a series of poetry recitation competitions that begin at the classroom level and progress all the way to nationals in Washington, D.C. each year. Traore got involved through a class project; he ultimately placed second in the state of Iowa.

“First, it was just a class assignment,” he said. “But I really liked it. I was really intrigued by it. I like reading poetry. Usually our assignments are to make our own poetry, but I don’t really like doing that, I just like reciting it.”

Traore next competed against students from other English classes at City. He placed first in the school, which qualified him for a trip to Des Moines to compete at the state level.

“I thought I was going to stop at the school competition,” Traore said. “But you can go farther. You can just keep going. My advice [to anyone interested] is you should just try it because you might like it, and you can get farther than you think.”

Traore poses after performing in Des Moines with English teachers Jennifer Brinkmeyer and Maureen Hill. Photo courtesy of Maureen Hill.

For the competition, Traore recited “The Cross of Snow,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” by Emily Dickinson, and “Tamer and Hawk,” by Thom Gunn.

“What I like about it is that it’s different because everyone has their own meaning to it, and it’s fun to express,” he said.

Although Traore enjoys reciting poetry and performing—he says he often entertains his sisters at home—he was nervous as he took the stage in Des Moines.

“My heart was racing,” he said. “There was this lady in the front and if you had problems, you could look at her and she would help you with your poem, and I was like, ‘Don’t be that person!’ I didn’t [ever have to look at her].”

After his experience with Poetry Out Loud, Traore plans to continue competing.

“The judges kept saying I should come back, and I want to,” he said. “The best part is winning, of course. But really, the best part is that you get to compete against others and it’s fun to know how good you are and how strong you are and how hard you’ve worked and how far you’ve come. The bad part is… I mean, it’s tough to lose, but it’s still fun doing it.”