LAKE PLACID - It may be safe to assume that Jameson Batt is on a serious mission, a poetic one to be exact.
The Lake Placid High School sophomore recently represented the North Country in the state finals in Syracuse for Poetry Out Loud for the second straight year after again taking first place in the North Country Regional competition in Plattsburgh.
According to its website, "Poetry Out Loud encourages students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life."
Since 2005, Poetry Out Loud has grown to reach more than 3 million students and 50,000 teachers from 10,000 schools in every state, Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Contestants are judged on memorization, stage presence, understanding of the poems, and the least amount of bodily movement during recitations.
"I've been using my hands a lot while talking," he chuckled, "so I kept my hands behind my back during recitations."
Batt said he was the only student from his school who entered, but he would have preferred having more of his fellow students take part even if it meant somebody else beating him out in the regionals and causing him to lose the chance to compete in state finals.
"Somebody from Lake Placid winning states I think would be amazing," he said.
Batt sees poetry as getting a bad rap by the way others regard it as inherently feminine, uninteresting, or just uncool.
"Then they say, 'Recite a poem.' So I do. And then they say, 'Oh, that's really cool.' It's like I'm the only person here who seems to want to put myself out and do something that could hold me up for ridicule," he said.
Batt intends to devote considerable energy towards convincing others to develop an appreciation for poetry to the extent where more people besides himself will compete next year, he said.
"If you can write well you can get your ideas out there so it's not all a jumbled mess. Poetry is like a symphony in words. You can see things happening, but you can hear it too, and it really adds to life as we know it," he said.
Batt's trip to the state finals last weekend coincided well with the Science Olympiad, which took place in Syracuse the next day. He entered three projects, one of which involved wind power that earned him a medal by taking sixth place.
`The son of Timothy and Cristy Batt, he said he was home schooled until his freshman year during which his English teacher, Karyssa Merrihew, encouraged him to take part in Poetry Out Loud after hearing him read and recite in class.
It was also during that year Batt was introduced to theater after a friend dared him to try out for the school play.
"Ever since I've been in love with theater," he said.
Batt will appear this week in LPHS's production of the musical comedy "Lucky Stiff" in which he plays the role of Vinnie Di Ruzzio, the mild-mannered optometrist whose high strung sister was the lover of Tony Herndon who passed away recently and whose corpse makes frequent appearances throughout the show. Performances are scheduled to run March 16-18 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.
Afterward, Batt can resume his mission of spreading the gospel of poetry to his fellow students a la John Keating as portrayed by Robin Williams in the 1989 best picture nominee "Dead Poets Society."
Mrs. Merrihew says, "He truly has a talent for reciting poetry and engaging the audience in this art. His expressions, articulation, and gestures bring his interpretations of the poems to life. I look forward to seeing where poetry takes him in the future!"