Bradley’s Poetic Perfection

By Matt Hawkins
December 5, 2013

With ballot box support from the Bradley community, a Bradley student took top honors in the Norton Anthology’s Student Recitation Contest for the second consecutive year. Emily Daniel ’14 won the online vote with her recitation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnet 43.”

High school and college students submitted videos of their recitations earlier this fall and judges whittled the competition to finalists for each of the four poems chosen for the contest.

“I never expected this to go anywhere,” Daniel said. “I thought it would just be fun to submit to a cool contest. Now people are watching it and I’m getting a little nervous.”

Daniel, president of the English honor society Sigma Tau Delta, participated in the society’s poetry reading contest last year which launched Liz Scoville’s ’13 winning bid in the Norton competition. She organized a similar even this year and submitted a recitation, as did four other students.

As an occasional theater participant since high school, the English major used the recitation contest as an avenue to merge her interests.

“English and theater go hand-in-hand with getting to know and understand characters,” Daniel said.

Daniel credited the Bradley community for pushing students toward activities that may not always operate in the front of people’s minds.

“I believe people should try every opportunity no matter how small, weird, or fun it is and two years in a row we’ve had people get acknowledged for that,” she said. “The campus is amazing for finding places to submit your name and get yourself out there. There are so many opportunities to submit poetry and academic journals. Teachers are so behind students.”

The chance for a repeat contest win has the English department buzzing as well as other campus departments as word spreads about Norton’s online voting.

“It’s strange but exciting,” Daniel said. “The community has been really strong behind it.”

Daniel chose Browning’s poem over works by Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, and James Weldon Johnson because it occasionally is mocked in popular culture. By toning down some of Browning’s “over-the-top” emotional writing, Daniel desired to simplify the poem’s meaning.

“So many people are down on that poem,” Daniel said. “The more I read through it, I felt for the voice she spoke for. If anything, I hope people think it’s a nice version of the poem.”

Plus, she hoped her recitation would change people’s opinions of the sonnet.

“What matters is when people say ‘you made me like that poem,’” she said.

As a winner, she received an acknowledgement in a future Norton Anthology.