A Literal Look at Death

As we settle into Halloween, now is a great time to take a look at Mary Beth Balaguer's latest project.

A 25-year-old nursing student, Mary Beth is taking Honors Introduction to Speech as part of her first semester of classes, and received a challenge from instructor Jodi Corbett.

"I had already given a few speeches and she could tell that I rely heavily on memorization. She told me about the Norton Anthology Student Recitation contest that is all about diction and memorization. That's perfect for me, so I just grabbed it and ran with it," Mary Beth said.

Mary Beth started at the contest website, which invites college and high school students to choose from four pre-selected works to create their entry – essentially a recitation of that poet's work. Mary Beth selected "Because I could not stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Shakespeare and James Weldon Johnson were the three other poets students could choose from.

"I was more familiar with Emily Dickinson and I liked the content of the poem better," Mary Beth said. "I looked at the previous years' winners and they were a mix of creativity and just a standard recitation."

"I decided to take a literal approach to mine and filmed all of it one day," she added.

Mary Beth said she came to RACC after spending the past several years working in customer service. She wants to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. Her husband is a City of Reading police officer and she has a young son, who has a cameo in her contest entry.

The Norton Anthology Student Recitation contest is accepting entries until Nov. 1. Jewell Brown, a graduate of RACC, won the 2011 contest from Norton. You can learn more about the contest by visiting its website.