New English speaker Mariya Nikolaeva participates in the state competition on Saturday
Contact: Laurie Hogan (336) 370-8307
Created: 3/2/2010 3:36:28 PM
English is a new language for Mariya Nikolaeva, but her
expressive poetry recitations earned her first place in the
district-level Poetry Out Loud contest and a chance to represent
Guilford County Schools at the state level. She will compete with
students from across the state on Saturday at the North Carolina Museum
of History in Raleigh.
Learning English has been hard for Nikolaeva, a Grimsley
High senior, but she credits poetry for helping her learn to pronounce
words and developing her vocabulary. An immigrant who lived in Russia
and Israel, she moved to the United States during the summer of 2008.
After taking an English class in Israel she thought she would be able to
communicate, but when she arrived in the United States she could only
say, "Hi. How are you?"
The English language is not the only thing new to
Nikolaeva - her interest in poetry is just as fresh. She first attended
the Doris Henderson Newcomers School, where her English teacher Georgie
Tasseron discovered her natural ability in poetry recitation. Tasseron
encouraged her to enter the Shakespeare Recitation Competition sponsored
by the English-Speaking Union and she placed third.
Preparing for the Poetry Out Loud competitions has
provided Nikolaeva with lots of English practice. She first won a class
contest and then the school competition at Grimsley. In January, she won
the Guilford County competition, and she moves on to the state level on
Saturday. From there, her current teacher Christina Adams says
Nikolaeva could make it to the national competition in Washington, D.C.
"What makes Mariya's winning so impressive to me is that she only
started learning English a year and a half ago," Adams said.
On Saturday, she will recite three poems before a
panel of judges, Shakespeare's "Sonnet XVIII," "Famous" by Naomi Shihab
Nye and "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus. Adams says "Famous" is a
beautiful poem that is perfect for Nikolaeva. "It's about fulfilling
your destiny by doing what you love, and in a way that is what Mariya is
doing." "The New Colossus," which describes the Statue of Liberty and
immigration to the United States, reminds Nikolaeva of the students at
Newcomers. "It's like I'm saying it for them," she said.
In the state competition, the judges will be looking
for an accurate interpretation of the poems. Students are judged on
articulation, accuracy, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding
and physical presence. In addition to reciting the words of the poem,
students add appropriate vocal expression. According to The National
Endowment for the Arts, recitation and performance are new trends in
poetry and there has been a resurgence of poetry as an oral art form.
Poetry Out Loud builds on that momentum by introducing students to
poetry through the dynamic aspects of spoken word as seen in the slam
Nikolaeva says she adds expression in a way that
feels right for each poem. "In poetry, you can express your feelings in a
way you can't in other [forms of] language." She plans to attend
college locally for two years starting this fall with hopes of
transferring to a university near the beach, she said. A young woman of
many interests, she plans to study politics but realizes that she has
many opportunities ahead to explore different subjects. "I'm very proud
of Mariya," Adams said. "She definitely has a talent. There's a
gentleness to her voice that is very beautiful."