A quick chat with Phaedra Plank, a finalist in this year’s state Poetry Out Loud competition.
PLANK: It’s not the most academic poem, but I’m a big fan of local poet Chandler Travis’ “I Threw Some Meat into a Pond,” from which comes: “I threw a lamb chop in the ocean/With a swift, athletic motion/You can’t imagine how I’d wish/To know my meat had hit a fish.” It’s a great poem and makes absolutely no sense!
N MAGAZINE: How did you prepare for the Poetry Out Loud competition?
PLANK: A lot of time and a lot of support from my parents, friends, school and community. Memorization is definitely key, but after that, I put a lot of work into understanding, personalizing and conveying a poem.
N MAGAZINE: What advice would you give someone who is afraid of performing
PLANK: It’s all about practice. I’ve found that by taking baby steps out of the comfort zone, one can gradually become more acquainted with public speaking. Starting at an early age helps, but it’s definitely something anyone can work on, especially if you’re willing to embarrass yourself now and then.
N MAGAZINE: How would you describe Nantucket in three words?
PLANK: I would say close-knit, full-of-contrasts (I’m counting that as one word) and unique—but I’m sure that doesn’t cover it.
PLANK: Given Nantucket hasn’t sunk into the ocean yet (just kidding!), I think I would put in some sort of community yearbook with pictures of events and people from all over the island, maybe a lightship basket, an arrowhead, some modern artifacts (an iPhone, mementos of the current presidency/campaign, etc.), and a note telling the scientists of the future where and when to meet us with their time machine. I think these items (minus the note) will give future Nantucketers a sense of our tight-knit, unusual and diverse island’s past and present.
Phaedra Plank placed third in this year’s Massachusetts Poetry Out Loud finals. Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation contest run by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation that celebrates the power of the spoken word and a mastery of public speaking skills while cultivating self-confidence and an appreciation of students’ literary heritage as they take poetry from the page to the stage.