'Poetry is so alive': 3 local students competing in national poetry competition

Three Windsor students are heading to Winnipeg next week — because they're good at reciting poetry.

Keagan Yap, Larissa Dushime and Alexander Morin are three of the 24 semi-finalists in the Poetry in Voice competition, which takes place April 23-25. 

Windsor-Essex is well-represented, with two of the students coming from St. Joseph's High School in Windsor and one coming from Cardinal Carter in Leamington. Dushime will recite in French, while Yap and Morin are in the bilingual section of the competition.

"It's remarkable," said Dushime about how many local people qualified. "You don't take into account how many entries go in but then you're like wow."

Poetry in Voice is a recitation competition that's been around for nine years. Students from 1,400 schools across Canada are participating. Students choose poems off the website, written by Canadian poets. For the one-language division, students recite three poems. Two poems are recited in the bilingual division.

Morin said it's like "winning the lottery."

"I'm really excited," said Morin. It's his first time competing, but Dushime made it to nationals last year. 

Dushime's poems are all in French, but focus on themes of war and chaos.

"I come from a country named Burundi in Africa," explained Dushime. "When we first immigrated to Canada, there was war. I find myself to be a happy person but I tend to gravitate towards poems about war and overcoming that."

The students agree it takes a lot of preparation to get ready for the competition. 

"You have to do some background, some research on the poet," said Dushime. "You really want to convey his message, but also add your twist, your experience to it."

Morin agreed.

"Your memory has to be there, but you really need to understand your poem so you can interpret it in a way that connects with you, connects with the audience."

Here's a look at Larissa Dushime's recitation from last year:

A panel of judges and a live audience will watch the students recite. A nudge is available if needed, but there are points deducted if you "blank out," as Dushime put it. 

"It may seem like it's an easy thing but it's very challenging," said Dushime. "It's your time to shine. Enjoy it."

According to Morin, the experience has taught him there's a lot more to poetry than it might seem.

"After reading all these poems, poetry is so alive. There's so much you can do with it."