Jacksonville’s Delaney Murray, a 15-year-old South Medford High School freshman, recently competed in the state “Poetry Out Loud” Competition in Salem. Statewide, three regional competitions were held, including two in Portland and one in Salem, comprised of students from 31 schools. Prior to advancing to the state-level competition, Delaney was one of three local students to compete and win spots in Salem. The competition is organized by the Oregon Arts Commission in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Participants memorize and perform poems, practicing public presentation skills while exploring the complexity of poetry.

In demonstrating wisdom well beyond her years, Delaney says “poetry is important because it allows people to say difficult things in an articulate way…one can take a bland statement and enable others to feel it…to connect with it.” Delaney is quick to point out that although the Poetry Out Loud program isn’t that well known, it’s gaining attention from her fellow classmates, many of whom are now participating in the voluntary program.

Through the program, Delaney says she’s learned to truly understand the complexities of the written word and to appreciate what the poet truly intended to convey…and how to say it. Much like a musician reads notes, “poets write with line breaks for clues as to when to use a dramatic pause or to convey happiness or sadness.” At the state competition, she read two poems, “Bleeding Heart,” by Carmen Gimenez-Smith and “Personal,” by Tony Hoagland. Delaney says Hoagland is her favorite poet, finding him “easy to connect with.” In addition to poetry, Delaney is a typical teenager when it comes to loving music, noting that her favorite bands include Muse, 2 Door Cinema Club and The Neighborhood.

The freshman says she’s very grateful for being introduced to the poetry program through her elective class, Speech and Debate, which she calls “the best class ever…it’s where I found my calling and my real talent.” She notes that her favorite non-Speech subject is Algebra (she was born with her father’s “math gene,”) and that she’s also taking Spanish 2, Advanced English, AP Human Geography, Theater and Honors Science. As a rare “left-brain, right-brain” student, Delaney carries a 4.0 GPA, something she says, “I intend to do for all four years of high school, if possible.” She also plans to become fluent in Spanish by completing five years of coursework in four years. And next school year, she plans to run for Sophomore Student Body President, which will add another dimension to her incredibly energetic and demanding high school career. As for where she wants to attend college, it’s a bit too early to make that call but Delaney is extremely interested in studying to become a registered dietician. After speaking with this remarkable young woman, there’s little doubt that she’ll accomplish anything she sets her mind to doing…with a poetic flare of course!


By Tony Hoagland


Don’t take it personal, they said;

but I did, I took it all quite personal—

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;

the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain—

And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy,

the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father,

with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom,

with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness

Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said

at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t

believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture

served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all

and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure

while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries

like wheeling birds

and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me

for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon

disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;

barking and barking:

trying to convince everything else

to take it personal too.