Speech Class: Poetry competitor Taribo Osuobeni
National poetry competitor Taribo Osuobeni shares how he connects audiences to his favorite works
Tessa Berg Photos
As a child, Taribo Osuobeni stuttered so badly that he’d hit his head out of frustration, trying to force out the words. He never saw a therapist. He just kept talking, relying on his parents’ prayers as the problem gradually faded.
Now, the recent Westerville Central High School graduate has no problem speaking out. Inspired by watching poetry festivals on YouTube, Osuobeni stood in front of classmates to perform Emily Bronte’s “No Coward Soul Is Mine” during Poetry Out Loud, a nationwide competition where high-school students recite their favorite works.
“It was very, very nerve-wracking,” says Osuobeni, who earned a trip to the national reading in April in Washington, D.C. “But it was definitely a fun experience.”
The unlikely performer shares insight on how to throw down at a reading.
Try practicing before a mirror, synching punching motions and facial expressions. Osuobeni records the poem to help with memorization. (He would often play back the piece on the way to school or sometimes in class.)
Perform your favorite Allen Ginsberg, or let others do the talking, at these upcoming poetry readings.
Writers’ Block Poetry Night
8 p.m. Wednesdays
2250 N. High St.,
Writing Wrongs Poetry Slam
8 p.m. Tuesdays
1978 Summit St., Campus
Pick work that relates to your life, Osuobeni says. “Once I get a clear understanding of the poem, that’s when I get into it.” His first poem was about the poet’s relationship with God, something he found instantly relatable.
Fun and games
Before a performance, Osuobeni reminds himself it’s all for fun. He calls himself a “big smiler” and always grins as he gets ready. Onstage, he says, nerves disappear. “The more I’m doing it, the more I love to do so.”
Make eye contact with individuals and the crowd. “I want them to have that connection, that they know what I’m saying,” he adds. Shout some phrases for emphasis, then speak others softly to let them resonate.