Poetry Friday: The State Champ, The Teacher and 'Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy'

May 25, 2018

A high school junior from Flagstaff is this year's Poetry Out Loud state champion. Sophie Weinzinger won the prestigious poetry recitation competition, advancing to the national championships in Washington, D.C. Though she didn't place in the top 3, Sophie still won, according to her poetry teacher. We hear from both of them in this week's installment of Poetry Friday. 


Sophie Weinzinger, a junior at Coconino High School, is this year's state Poetry Out Loud champion.
Credit Sophie Weinzinger

My name is Terry Wilson. I’m a teacher at Coconino High School. Sophie’s been participating in Poetry Out Loud all three years she’s been at Coconino High School. And she has been the school-wide winner all three years as well. And this year she went to Washington, D.C. and participated in the national Poetry Out Loud contest with 51 other students. And she made it to the final nine. She didn’t place 1, 2 or 3 out of the nine, and we were all watching and rooting for her and listening. And some of the kids said, ‘Oh, Sophie! Were you disappointed?’ And with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen on her face, she said, ‘It was the greatest experience of my life. I DID win because I got to go!’ And you know why she thinks she won? She got to meet people she thinks are amazing. The other winners, the other…not even the other winners but the other reciters. She doesn’t believe she gets to know them in her life. And what she doesn’t realize is, I can’t believe I get to be her teacher! ‘Oh! You’re her teacher. You did such a good job.’ No. No I didn’t. I watched her do a good job is what happened.

Hi, my name is Sophie Weinzinger, and I’ll be reciting ‘Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy’ by Thomas Lux. I love this poem because it’s not daunting at all. I think when we think about poetry we think of Old English and Shakespeare. But I love this poem because it’s so simple in the words it uses, but the message is so clear that every life counts. 

Tarantulas on the LIfebuoy, by Thomas Lux

For some semitropical reason

when the rains fall

relentlessly they fall

into swimming pools, these otherwise

bright and scary

arachnids. They can swim

a little, but not for long.

and they can't climb the ladder out.

They usually drown - but

if you want their favor, 

if you believe there is justice,

a reward for not loving

the death of ugly

and even dangerous (the eel, hog snake,

rats) creatures, if

you believe these things, then 

you would leave a lifebuoy

or two in your swimming pool at night.

And in the morning

you would haul ashore

the huddled, hairy survivors

and escort them

back to the bush, and know,

be assured that at least these saved,

as individuals, would not turn up

Terry Wilson, Sophie's poetry teacher at Coconino High School
Credit Terry Wilson

again someday

in your hat, drawer,

or the tangled underworld

of your socks, and that even -

when your belief in justice

merges with your belief in dreams -

they may tell the others

in a sign language

four times as subtle 

and complicated as man's

that you are good,

that you love them,

that you would save them again.