Okkodo High School competes in Poetry Out Loud 2022 National Semi-Finals | Way of life

Corrections and Clarifications: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Zekiya Mapilisan’s last name.

Zekiya Sage N. Mapilisan, a high school student from Okkodo, is set to represent Guam in the 2022 Poetry Out Loud National Semifinals on Monday.

The contest invites students from across the country to recite great works of poetry, and Mapilisan’s passionate connection to the emotional pulse of poetry just might send her into the winner’s circle.

Mapilisan, who carries herself with the kind of grounded, quiet confidence one expects from a champion poem reciter, admits she hasn’t always had her eye on this particular award.






Zekiya Sage N. Mapilisan, a senior at Okkodo High School, will compete in the Poetry Out Loud 2022 National Semi-Finals. The contest will be streamed online at 8 a.m. on May 2, 2022.




“If I’m being honest, it actually started as an extra credit from my English trial class, because I’m currently in my final year. And you know, as a student, when you see an opportunity – especially if it involves extra credit – you grab it. And so that’s what I did. … That’s how it really started,” Mapilisan said.

Despite the humble beginnings of her poetic journey, her skills and efforts have taken her to new heights. This is only the second year that Guam will be represented in the national contest, a fact Mapilisan does not take lightly.

“I actually remember thinking of myself as a mediocre, sort of average poetry reciter. I am not at all professional. I mean, I think this is my first, doing something big like this.

“So when I heard that (I won), I was wondering if I would represent my island. It was like, ‘Wow, there are so many things bigger than that.’ And I was really excited,” Mapilisan said.

The Poetry Out Loud competition consists of several rounds. In Guam, competition begins at the school level before moving to the island-wide, national semi-finals and then national finals.







poetry out loud

The Guam Arts and Humanities Council held an awards ceremony for the Guam Poetry Out Loud 2022 finalists on April 30, 2022, at the Agana Mall, where Zekiya Mapilisan received her trophy as Guam Champion . From left to right center stage, Sandy Flores, CAHA Executive Director, Donna Kloppenburg, CAHA Board Member, Zekiya Mapilisan, 2022 Guam Poetry Out Loud Champion, Lt. Governor Joshua “Josh” Tenorio and Francis Guerrero, Chairman of the CAHA Board of Directors.




In the current round, Mapilisan will face students from American Samoa and western states including California, Washington and more.

If she is chosen among the top three competitors in her region, she will qualify for the national final.

There are even rounds in the competition rounds – three, in fact.

This helps judges narrow down to a single winner and allows contestants to show off their mastery and versatility.

For the national semi-finals, Mapilisan chose “Thoughtless Cruelty”, by Charles Lamb, “The Coming Woman”, by Mary Weston Fordham and “Ars Poetica”, by Jose Olivarez.

She has already recorded her recitations via Zoom call with the production team.

In choosing his poems, Mapilisan has his eye on several moving elements, including scope, emotional connection, interest in language, storytelling, avoidance of rhyme schemes, and divergence from well-known poems in favor of what captures his attention.







Mapilisan Sage N. Mapisilan

Zekiya Sage N. Mapilisan prepares his recitations the day before his video recording session for the 2022 Poetry Out Loud National Semi-Finals. Mapilisan is Guam’s second representative in this competition.




“I think it was just the amount of emotion in them, because the first one is more sad or painful in tone.

“And then my second, which is ‘The Coming Woman,’ that was the type of 20th century poem where you have to sound like you’re talking back then, but I really liked that. That’s what caught my attention.

“And then the third one, which is ‘Ars Poetica’, that one is about immigration. I know coming from Guam, it’s like I don’t fit in or I always have to work a little bit harder than the others. And I think it was the story behind it that caught my attention,” Mapilisan said.

“Poems usually have a rhyme scheme. For me, I don’t favor them, actually. I like the ones that don’t, because it feels more like a story and I could relate to it.

“So the ones I ended up choosing, the majority didn’t rhyme and it was more of a story like you’re playing an actor and an actress. That’s how I convey myself in these poems.







Zekiya Sage N. Mapilisan

Zekiya Sage N. Mapilisan, a senior at Okkodo High School, will compete in the Poetry Out Loud 2022 National Semi-Finals. The contest will be streamed online at 8 a.m. on May 2, 2022.




According to the Poetry Out Loud website, the contest “encourages the study of great poetry by providing free educational materials and a dynamic recitation contest for high school students, helping them master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn more about literary history and contemporary life.

In the case of Mapilisan, she chose poets throughout the competition who represent various segments of society and are prominent in the world of poetry.

Claudia Rankine and Mary Weston Fordham, for example – two black American poetesses writing a hundred years apart about the nuances of a world only they can perceive.

“Usually in literature class it would be like Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson, so all the main types of poems the students would choose.

“But I remember going through the various listings online because we were able to choose ours, but it had to come from the website.

“There was quite a list, so I went through them and then picked the ones that caught my eye first,” Mapilisan said.

A judge’s guide found on the Poetry Out Loud website for the 2020-2021 academic year cites scoring categories as physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic relevance, evidence of comprehension and overall performance, which can be scored on a scale from one to six.

Mapilisan says she has her own way of approaching recitation.

“I think it’s more how you recite the poem. Because you might do little things along the way, but I think it’s your tone of voice.

“And not just reciting the poem, or delivering the poem from memory, is knowing the type of character you want to convey through your words and through those little actions,” Mapilisan said.

If Mapilisan qualifies for the national final, she will compete with eight other students for major prizes that could support her future endeavors.

According to the Poetry Out Loud website, the 2022 Poetry Out Loud Champion will receive $20,000, including $10,000 and $5,000 for second and third runners-up.

A total of $50,000 in academic or organizational prizes and stipends will be awarded by the end of the competition.

Whether she leaves with money or not, Mapilisan has already gained perspective and an appreciation for literature throughout this process.

She will begin her nursing studies at Seattle Pacific University in the fall, but the poems will never be far from her mind.

“I learned that I find comfort in reciting poems. When I recite them, I can skim through those poems and look at them, as if through an almost different perspective, and put myself in their shoes and understand their feelings and the amount of emotion they put into that work of art or that work which the author has created.

“It’s their raw thoughts, and that’s what’s going on in there,” Mapilisan said.

“For me to win the whole thing would be ecstatic and something I never thought I could do.

“I had a deeper understanding of what it is, that I could be something, that I could add to myself and say, ‘Oh, I’m a student, I’m going to college, but I also do things on my own time.’

“And that’s reciting poetry. And now I have kind of a name for myself, and to think that other people could take something or learn something from that is also an amazing thing.

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