Last year’s NJ Poetry Out Loud champion Natasha Vargas went on to win third place in the 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Championship. This year NJPOL invited her to be a judge at the state finals, which were held on March 13 in Princeton. In the following piece Natasha compares the experience of judging to the experience of competing.
Being a judge instead of a participant at this year’s NJ state level Poetry Out Loud competition was an amazing experience. Last year when I was a participant I made a point not to watch the performances of my fellow competitors because I didn’t want to psych myself out. However, this year I got to fully enjoy the recitations given by New Jersey’s talented POL participants. It was a different kind of rush to be the one evaluating rather than reciting poetry. It was also an eye opening experience. When I was a participant, I worried that the judges were evaluating my recitations based on my faults rather than my triumphs. However, when I became a judge I realized that judges are by no means cold or calculating. In fact, I wanted nothing more than for each of the participants to do their best and execute a gripping recitation. Rather than looking for what a participant did wrong, I found that being a judge was more about giving the participants credit for what they did well. After being both a participant and a judge I have confirmed my belief that POL is not merely a competition- it is the organized appreciation of poetry.