Samuel Eluemunoh ’22 was crowned state champion of this year’s Poetry Out Loud recitation competition, held virtually by the Texas Commission on the Arts in February 2021. Samuel is the first Marksman to ever achieve this feat at the state level. He won the St. Mark’s competition earlier this year, which earned him a spot in the state competition.
“Samuel has worked tremendously hard to earn this accolade, starting in his freshman year, when he was a runner-up in the School's poetry contest,” said Geoff Stanbury, Upper School English teacher. “He gleans the meaning and subtext of his chosen poems, coming to each one on its own terms. But he simultaneously makes each poem his own.”
The state title comes with a prize of $200 for Samuel and a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books at St. Mark’s. The competition involved reciting several poems of the student’s choosing, which were judged for physical presence, dramatic appropriateness, accuracy, and several other criteria.
With a distinct approach selecting poems to recite, Samuel said, “I’ve never used a poem that rhymed in any of my competitions. Personally, I feel that if a poet can rhyme about a subject, they are holding something back for the sake of rhyming, but my agenda is to find and deliver something authentic and genuine.”
“What is most amazing about Samuel’s success is that it came as a total surprise to him,” said GayMarie Vaughan, Upper School English teacher. “He initially participated in Poetry Out Loud because it was a class requirement. In the process, and with some encouragement by his teachers, he discovered he had a real talent for performance poetry.”
Samuel will represent Texas this spring at the national Poetry Out Loud competition, which will be conducted virtually and livestreamed for the public. Produced by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, the national winner receives a $20,000 college scholarship.
“I want other Marksmen to know that they do not need to confine themselves to their perceived identities or talents,” Samuel said. “You should be an athlete one day and the next day play in a symphony, or a genius mathematician this week, and a prospective 300-meter hurdler the next week.”
Watch a clip below of Samuel reciting "I Am Offering This Poem" by Jimmy Santiago Baca.