Veazey Claims Victory at Poetry Out Loud


Photo courtesy of Ashley Veazey.

Ashley Veazey with the three other poets advancing to the State competition.

Will Hamilton, Staff writer

Two years ago, Ashley Veazey stepped on stage to recite “Sugar Dada” by J. Allyn Rosser for the school level competition of Poetry Out Loud. She introduced herself and her poem, and then her mind went blank.

“The day of the recitation I went up in front of the crowd, but as soon as I started saying the first line,  I forgot all of it,” said Veazey. “So I quickly thought, ‘Nevermind, I’m not going to do this anymore’ and I sat back down.”

Veazey had spent hours finding, researching, memorizing, and perfecting her poem. But at this year’s competition, she set out to redeem herself.

“It was a such a big disappointment for me because I had been looking forward to the competition since [my freshman year],” said Veazey, now a junior. “So this [year’s competition] was my second chance. I decided to use the same poem because if I could not finish it freshman year, then I wanted to do it justice.”

This time around, all her hard work paid off. She did not forget her poem, and to her surprise, she won the competition. Her recitation of “Sugar Dada”, which is about how things are not always as they seem, was well received by the panel of guest judges. The judges grade on criteria including physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, and overall performance, and Veazey checked all those boxes.

However, Veazey almost had to wait a third year for her chance to compete. The competition did not end up occurring last year as a result of CCHS drama teacher Linda Lirette’s maternity leave. Many of the Poetry Out Loud contestants come directly from Lirette’s classes.

“We have an in-class competition in drama class,” said Lirette. “Then we select the top one, two, three students, depending on how many are really really good.”

Without the participation of Lirette’s drama students, there weren’t enough competitors.

This year’s competition was nearly ruined as well. Due to snow concerns, school was canceled on January 29, which was the scheduled date for the event.

“That was a really stressful thing to deal with because I had been waiting so long to perform my poem, and I felt like I might never get the chance,” said Veazey.

But thanks to the quick actions of CCHS librarian Christine Holland, the competition was rescheduled.

“We have a deadline to meet so [competitors] can go on to the next level and I had three judges coming from outside the community,” said Holland. “I was concerned that they would not be able to attend the makeup session. But we were able to get everybody back on board.”

It was Holland who first brought Poetry Out Loud to Chamblee 11 years ago, and she is glad this year’s competition was able to happen because it was one of the best ones yet.

“[This year,] we had ten competitors and they all were very good,” said Holland. “They chose challenging poems which made it very competitive.”

But only one poet could come out on top, and that was Veazey. As a result of her school level victory, she moved on to the regional competition.

“It was actually this past Sunday at the Atlanta History Center,” said Holland. “Ashley Veazey attended there and represented Chamblee.”

The regional round requires students to prepare a second poem.

“I recited ‘Sugar Dada’ again, and my other poem for the regional round was ‘Mezzo Cammin’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is kind of a sonnet but quirky,” said Veazey.

Veazey’s success continued at the regional level. She finished in the top 30 percent of competitors, meaning that she will move on to the state level competition, which will be held at the Atlanta History center on March 17.

While she did not enter the competition with the goal of winning, Veazey plans to do her best to represent Chamblee well.

In the future, Veazey hopes more students will participate in Poetry Out Loud.

“I would definitely encourage people to take part in the next year because it’s really satisfying to get up on stage and complete something,” said Veazey. “I really enjoy how you can take written text and bring it to life. Poems are written for a reason and discovering that reason and being able to spit it back out is really satisfying.”