Because of the bad fortune of a snowstorm that caused the postponement of the Region 6 New Jersey Poetry Out Loud competition, I had the good fortune to act as the Accuracy Judge on the snow date. While the other three judges had to evaluate each recitation in six categories, I had only one thing to worry about: Did the student “keep the poet’s language intact for the audience”? Once the student started his/her recitation, I followed along, without lifting my eyes from the text, until the recitation finished. So, throughout the entire time each student was on stage, I had to block out any aspects of “performance” and concentrate on the words themselves. Inaccuracies, which are classified as either “minor” (e.g. “a” instead of “the”) or “major” (e.g. skipping a line), can have a surprising impact on the overall score because they can result in a total deduction of 7 points. As a testament to the skill and commitment of the Region 6 students, there were few “major” inaccuracies—for the most part the inaccuracies centered on confusing pronouns/articles and skipping/replacing words.
Although some people might consider the role of the Accuracy Judge less exciting than that of the other judges, I very much enjoyed the experience. Since this was my first time as a POL judge, it allowed for an easy introduction to the fast-paced judging process. Also, it just so happens that my personality is very well suited to the block-out-everything-but-the-text concentration needed to act as Accuracy Judge. This concentration must be combined with an ability to respond to the recitation itself—for example, patiently waiting until one participant, who had gone completely “off script,” found her way back to the poem.
-Teresa Carson, Associate Editor