After finishing third in Poetry Out Loud’s national finals last year, Punahou student Nicholas Amador knew he had his work cut out for him in 2017.
Back for this year’s contest, the 16-year-old Honolulu resident bested dozens of kids from Hawaii and thousands more from around the United States with his readings of Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” Sandra McPherson’s “Lions” and Stuart Dybek’s “Windy City,” earning a second-place finish last month in Washington, D.C.
“This year, in particular, was a lot less stressful because I knew the whole deal (after participating in 2016),” said Amador. “It was just a lot of fun the whole time I was there.”
Poetry Out Loud launched nationwide in 2006, inviting students across the country to learn more about poetry through memorization and recitation, teaching them public speaking skills and building self-confidence. The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation present the competition with support at the local level from the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, with $50,000 in prize money going to the national winners and their respective schools.
As an active member of Punahou’s theater program and the local stage community, Amador said his desire to perform for others is what motivated him to initially enter the Poetry Out Loud competition at his school.
Amador said he “honestly didn’t expect” to do as well at the national contest as he did this year, but was “overjoyed” with the win — and the $10,000 prize he received, which will go toward his college education. Amador added that he hopes to return to the finals on his third try next year.
“I’m going to go for it,” he said. “I’m at least going to try the school competition. There are so many amazing students at every level.
“Whatever happens, I’m just going to do it for the fun of it. It’s a great experience.”
Amador said his next challenge is performing in the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival, which he plans to take part in this summer.