Q & A with Poetry Out Loud finalist Mia Ronn


Photo credit: Jullie Cach

Junior Mia Ronn performs the poem, “The World is About to End and My Grandparents are in Love,” by Kara Jackson. First, Ronn won Archer’s Poetry Out Loud contest in December and has now advanced to nationals as one of nine finalists. “I think [the poem] is so relevant and impactful. It feels like the news is constantly overwhelming our generation,” Ronn said. “With COVID, we haven’t especially gotten the same sort of teenage experience and all of the things that we sort of hoped to experience. I think we’re in a place of wondering what our lives are going to look like.”

By Jullie Cach, Staff Reporter

At the end of last year, Archer held its second annual Poetry Out Loud contest December 6 during US-FLX Block in the dining hall. The contest was made up of six student participants who were all competing for a spot in the Los Angeles County Finals. Junior Mia Ronn won Archer’s school contest, moved up to the county contest and then advanced to state finals. Winning state finals, Ronn went on to compete against winners across the country Sunday, May 1, in the national semifinals. There, Ronn was named one of nine finalists and will advance to the national finals Sunday, June 5.

There will be a one-time-only webcast available on the National Endowment for the Art’s website. The webcast will begin at 4 p.m. Pacific Standard time, 6 p.m. Central time and 7 p.m. Eastern Standard time. Author Kwame Alexander will also host a virtual event showcasing the poetry recitations from the nine finalist and the announcement of the National Champion.

The Oracle sat down with Ronn to talk about her inspiration for participating in Poetry Out Loud and her experience in the competition thus far.

What got you interested in participating in Poetry Out Loud?

Mia Ronn [MR]: Initially, I didn’t have a lot of prior knowledge about the competition, and it was something introduced to me by my theater teacher. Everybody in Drama Queens participated, and it was really fun because it was a little bit different from acting. We were all really excited to participate because it was similar to the kind of performance that we’ve done but with a little twist. Also, my English teacher helped me a lot in the whole process and getting involved. It was a fun combination of things I really enjoy — English and theatre.

Beginning the process, how did you decide on the first poem to perform?

[MR]: I wanted to pick ones I felt personally connected to because it’s such a vulnerable thing. I think the way to get the performance really strong is to feel really connected to it. I went to the Poetry Out Loud website, and it has all these really cool ways to filter through the poems because there are like 1,000 of them on there. I went through finding ones that connected to things that I’m passionate about, like music, and I went through this whole section of poems about music. I ended up finding poems about guitars, and I think it was a good way to find things that I genuinely connected to.

How was the performance at Archer and then advancing to the following competitions?

[MR]: In the very beginning, I got to perform live in the room with a bunch of Archer teachers, and that was more fun than performances over Zoom. It definitely felt like more of a performance, but the stakes got higher as it went on, and it was more nerve-wracking. I also had to work around it being all over Zoom. They sent this whole crazy production kit with a professional lighting camera, and I had to perform over Zoom in all one take. Every step along the way — from county to state to nationals — everyone has been so helpful in making sure that the performance process isn’t too scary.

How would you describe the poems you chose to perform?

[MR]: The first one is by a poet named Kara Jackson. It talks about this young woman whose grandparents are so in love, and she’s musing about how it feels like the world is ending. As she sees her grandparent’s idyllic relationship and how that impacts her, she wonders what love will look like for our generation. I also performed one called “Two Guitars” by Victor Hernandez Cruz, and I really love it because of my love for music. He describes music in a really beautiful and poetic way, and I felt really connected to that. Then I had to choose one that was a pre-20th century, which is scarier because you’re not as familiar with the language, but I ended up finding one that Ms. Bergen helped me find. It sounds like it was written yesterday. It’s from the early 1800s called “No I wasn’t meant to love and be loved” by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, and it’s a fascinating and beautiful poem about a tumultuous relationship.

What is special about poetry to you?

[MR]: What’s so special about poetry, as somebody who loves music so much and loves all the written arts, is that there’s something so free about poetry. I really love the fact that there’s really no constraint to what you can do. It feels sort of liberating to write poetry and to read poetry. What’s wonderful about it is you can interpret it any way you want. Like with all three of the poems that I choose, I sat there staring at them, interpreting them in all these different ways, and, especially when you’re performing, it makes you realize you have no idea what the author’s thinking or what they’re saying. I think the more I read it over and over, and the more that I had to dig into that for the performance, the more depth I found. I feel like what’s so exciting about poetry is you can read a poem differently every time and always find new meanings.