Through a door
of what had been a house, into the field
of rubble, walks a single lamb, tilting
its head, curious, unafraid, hungry.
Watching Blessed Sherriff’s performance of Linda Gregg’s poem from the 2013 National Poetry Out Loud finals is to witness an exercise in clarity, poise, and the meticulous enunciation of meaning. Blessed’s interpretation was among three poems she performed to win second place in the national poetry-recitation competition that year; she competed again in 2015 before graduating from Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.
Poetry Out Loud was established in 2005 by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. In contrast to the drama and rhythm of “poetry slams” and the rapid-fire improvisational wit of rap, Poetry Out Loud is based on thoughtful delivery that lets the poem’s language and structure shine through. The POL website’s teacher resources page calls for a dramatization that “subtly underscores the meaning of the poem without becoming the focal point.”A successful presentation will be the result of “a powerful internalization of the poem.”
Blessed has said that “The Lamb” was her favorite because of its theme of “finding hope in desperate situations.” Her performance from 2013 exemplifies this standard. A phrase from the Tao Te Ching comes to mind: “like crossing a stream in winter.” You sense each word as a stepping-stone, the foot placed just so, the speaker’s voice bearing the meaning carefully, like a cup of water.
Blessed is currently a student at Brown University.