Haag’s (’22) Memorable Experience with Poetry Out Loud


Elio Haag (’22) performs at the Poetry Out Loud Vermont state competition. Photo credit: Larissa Hebert

Adelyne Collin, Editor

Numerous Bellows Free Academy students participate in Poetry Out Loud every year. This year, Bellows Free Academy student Elio Haag (’23) advanced far into the competition.

According to Haag, this year was the first time they had entered the contest, but they had a previous love and fascination with poetry, which drove them through the competition. 

Also, the community surrounding Poetry Out Loud has connected students together to form friendships. The experience that comes along with Poetry Out Loud has been enriching for Haag for sharing a passion for poetry with fellow contestants. 

“Moving forward in the competition was a great honor. I was so excited to be amongst the best in the state. Everyone I met was so talented, yet humble and supportive of each other. Through casual conversation, we found that we all have a lot in common,” Haag said.

Haag put to memory and recited three poems: Summer by Chen Chen, the world is about to end and my grandparents are in love by Kara Jackson and No, I wasn’t meant to love and be loved by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib.

In response to The Mercury’s question, what poem did you choose and why, Hagg said, “Each of these poems resonated with me in some way: it felt as if each of them contained the essence of something I deeply wanted to say about myself and about the world but didn’t have the right words to do so.”

In January, Andy Butterfield, representing the Vermont Arts Council, met with BFA’s Poetry Out Loud contestants. Butterfield was able to assist Haag in their performance, which Haag deemed helpful.

I did take one piece of advice to heart though: Andy said before art, before poetry, there must be breath. It is important to take a full breath (inhale, exhale) before you begin your recitation to center yourself. This advice really helped me get into the right headspace for my recitations, and I will be sure to use that tactic in other aspects of performance in the future,” Haag said.

According to Haag, the anticipation of performing was nerve-wracking as they sat behind the stage, but once they were performing, their passion for their poems overcame the anxiety.

“I really dug deep for each poem, and I’m glad that the audience and judges were able to feel that,” Haag said.

Having placed fifth overall and being one of the top reciters in the state, Haag is excited and proud of their work. While Haag did not move onto the national competition, their first experience with Poetry Out Loud was memorable. 

“I was so excited when I heard my name announced for the top five, especially since I had worked so hard on getting my third poem performance ready,” Haag said.

According to Haag, some helpful advice for future students includes “find[ing] a poem that you connect with, a poem that encompasses something you’ve been wanting to say. Though the performance is about the poet’s work and how you reflect it in your recitation, it will make the whole ordeal much more enjoyable if the poem you recite means something to you and allows you to speak your truth along with theirs.”