Mason Haddock’s yen for poetry started at Louisiana Elementary School.
He was moved by Shel Silverstein’s “Falling Up” anthology of poems and his book “Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings.”
But Haddock didn’t master his ability to read poetry until he was in Michael Humphrey’s speech class at Louisiana High School.
Humphrey has students read poems to each other “as a warm-up exercise before they get up and make speeches,” he said. “Some people would choose death over public speaking, so it’s an ice breaker,” he said.
Through those readings, Haddock and other class members ended up in February’s “Poetry Out Loud” contest at the Hannibal Arts Council.
Haddock read three lyrical poems and won third place out of six participants.
The contest is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The three poems Haddock read “all seem to tell a story with related themes,” Haddock said.
The poems were “It Was Not Death, For I Stood Up,” by Emily Dickinson. “Dirge in the Woods,” by George Merideth and “Thou Art My Lute,” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar.
“They’re old-style, old-English poems about tragedies and death,” Haddock said. “I like how poetry can tell a story and how it’s written in metaphors. Poetry is very different from culture to culture but something which every culture shares.”
“Those are not simple poems to memorize,” Humphrey said. “Those are not ‘roses are red, violets are blue’ poems.”
Haddock likes Dickinson’s works “because she has so many different poems in different styles.”
The first stanza of “It Was Not Death,” shows that.
“It was not Death, for I stood up,
“And all the Dead, lie down –
“It was not Night, for all the Bells
“Put out their Tongues, for Noon.”
“Every Missouri high school can participate but only about five percent do,” Humphrey said. “I’m hoping whomever takes my place (after his retirement this year) will participate.”