One Clap Speech and Debate

Long Winter's Clap 8: Poetry Interpretation Event Overview (Feat. PI Tips from Rachel West)

January 30, 2021 Lyle Wiley / Rachel West Season 2 Episode 42
One Clap Speech and Debate
Long Winter's Clap 8: Poetry Interpretation Event Overview (Feat. PI Tips from Rachel West)
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to A Long Winter's Clap: 12 Days of Speech and Debate Event Overviews and Resources.    This episode is all about Poetry Interpretation, and we are featuring some hot tips from Rachel West - up-and-coming stellar sophomore for Cheyenne East Speech and Debate.  Be sure to check out Rachel's tips and other resources for Poetry on our website.

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Hi there, friends!

Lyle here - your snow-angel makin’, fuzzy sock wearin’, binge cookie eatin’ host of the One Clap Speech and Debate Podcast.  Sure… the holidays may be past us, but winter is still here, and I come once again bearing gifts!

Welcome to A Long Winter’s Clap - 12 Days Speech and Debate Event Overviews.

For these episodes, One Clap will be delivering event overviews and resources that I hope will be helpful for novice judges, coaches, or competitors.  

Here’s the deal -- for each episode I will provide a quick overview of the chosen event, a couple of spicy and sweet tips for each event from expert coaches or competitors, and links to helpful resources on to help you rock your performance.  These overviews are not meant to be comprehensive, but should hopefully give you some information on each event and then provide resources for an independent deep dive for listeners who want to learn more.

Settle in for a event-overview gift for your speech-loving ears from One Clap Speech and Debate!

Poetic Interpretation

Poetic Interpretation
aka Poetry
aka PI an individual event in which a competitor does a creative presentation of a selection of linked together poetry pieces or one long poetry piece.   Poetry performances are no longer than ten minutes in length and competitors also have the unique addition of a small black binder that holds their piece and can be of creative use in the performance.  

Here is a description straight from the NSDA competition guide:

“Poetry is characterized by writing that conveys ideas, experiences, and emotions through language and expression. Often Poetry is very creative in terms of vocabulary and composition. While Poetry may tell a story or develop a character, more often Poetry’s focus on language and form are designed to elicit critical thought, reflection, or emotion. Students may choose what the National Speech & Debate Association refers to as traditional Poetry, which often has a formal meter or rhyme scheme, or nontraditional Poetry, which often has a rhythmic flow but lacks formal rhyme or meter (examples include spoken word or slam Poetry).”

Poetry is full of possibilities.  Competitors can fashion together a variety of poems to create a program that flows naturally and creates a kind of unified thesis.  Publication rules for piece selection are increasingly loose in NSDA rules and the state of Wyoming now too - so, there are ever so many possibilities of modern or less modern poems for students to select from for their cuttings.   

Poetry and Program Oral Interpretation are the two events that equip performers with the small black binder.  Performers that find success in Poetry don’t really read from these binders much - they glance at the binder every so often giving a vague appearance of the poetry being read at times.  But, the top flight Poetry performances are clearly memorized and carefully blocked to create characters or voices in the pieces while using the folder in creative ways to bring more life, energy, or creativity to the performance.

Poetry presents a whole lot of challenges for performers - not the least of which is using voice, body language, timing, blending of voices and pieces, energy, and emotion to create a memorable and powerful performance.

Today we have six hot tips for Poetry performers from up-and-coming Speech Superstar, Rachel West - a sophomore from Cheyenne East High School.  

1. Throughout the process, care about everything you're doing.  
It is very important to truly believe in the pieces you choose and the message you are sending your audience.  The more you care, the more you will connect with others and let your voice be heard. 
2. Be creative with your composition, blocking, and characters. 
Movement is vital to a strong poetry interpretation.  Find ways to give your presentation energy and vitality.   Bring your characters to life using creative choices.
3. Get inspiration from every resource you can find. You can take that and make something that is unique to you.
Don’t mimic other pieces entirely or pick blocking that is fashionable.  Instead, use other interpretations as inspiration to truly push yourself to a creative representation of your poetry.  Don’t be afraid to take chances in your creativity.
4. Have a clear story arc in mind when creating the piece.
Stories speak to what makes us human and give us understanding and joy.  When creating your piece, find the heart of a story that has a clear and understandable arc that your audience will recognize.
5. Let your piece have a message that can apply to everyone. Think about a universal humanity.
In this arc of your story, try to find a way to resonate with your audience - help them see in your piece a universal message to humanity.  
6. Pick one poem to begin with and then branch out to other related poems.
If you have a poem that you love that speaks to your heart and the story you want to tell, start there!  Work your way forward to the poetry program  that speaks to you and to others.

Thanks so much to for the gift of these lovely Poetry tips for competitors, Rachel.  We appreciate your wisdom and generosity!

Want more One Clap material that discusses approaches to Poetry Interpretation?  Check out my interview with Danyon Satterlee - Poetry National Champion in 2007 - on a previous episode of One Clap - I will link to this episode on the webpage.  

I’m going to link to other helpful resources for Poetic Interpretation on  If you have or know of more resources for students, coaches, or judges - reach out and let me know.  I’ll link to these resources on the website as well! 

If you have an idea or a request for One Clap Speech and Debate, shoot me an email at or reach out on the One Clap Speech and Debate Podcast website or social media - linked in the show notes.

This New Year, maybe consider supporting One Clap Speech and Debate by checking out our patreon page linked in the show notes.  You can partner with me on this journey for as little as 1 dollar a month and stop patronage at any time!

Be sure to subscribe, rate, and review the One Clap Podcast wherever you listen!  Watch for new episodes of One Clap, Rock On! Debate, Coach Connection, and Speech Love!

Thank you for listening, best of luck to everyone out there competing at tournaments, and Clappy New Year from One Clap!