David Luciemable of Cape Coral may not be considering a career in the arts, but the way he recites poetry may make him rethink that idea.
Luciemable, a North Fort Myers High School sophomore and a student in the STAMP (Student Advocacy and Mentoring Partnership) program, is headed for Tallahassee on March 1 to take part in the state poetry recitation competition, Poetry Out Loud.
Luciemable won the class and school poetry competition to make him eligible for the state competition, for which he advanced to the second round last year, the only freshman to do so.
And talking to him makes you realize he can make even the most mundane subject interesting and engaging.
David spent his early life in Linden, N.J. and moved to Georgia briefly before his father, who just got promoted, had the choice to go back to New Jersey or Fort Myers.
"We didn't want to move back to New Jersey because it's cold. So we came here and I've lived here nine years," David said.
David said it was his English teacher in freshman year, Barbara Teitelzweig, also the STAMP and Take Stock in Children coordinator, who got him on the path with a school assignment.
"We had to analyze and present a poem to the class. Whoever was the winner of the class competition went on to the school competition, and the winner of that went to states," Luciemable said. "My poem was 'Old Ironsides' for the class competition, which I won, and I picked 'Ode' for the school competition and I won that."
David then did "The Paradox" and "Ode" in the state competition.
For him, it was a great experience, great enough to make him want to try again even if he had no obligation to. Besides, he said he's always wanted to go to Washington.
"I really enjoyed getting out of South Florida because I hadn't been out of South Florida in 10 years," Luciemable said. "It was something worth doing, not just going 200 miles to go to Disney. I had a mission I needed to accomplish."
This year, Luciemable did not take part in the class competition because his teacher didn't do poetry out loud. He went on his own to compete in schools, which he narrowly won.
"I'm going to do 'The Paradox' again in states, but I changed to 'Thoughts in a Zoo' because I thought it would work better," Luciemable said.
The national competition, in Washington D.C., takes place April 29 and 30.
Luciemable knows and understands the poems he will recite like the back of his hand, and doesn't practice too hard because he said it puts too much stress on him. It's the performance of the poems that's most important.
"I'm going to work on my stage presence. I don't want to be too confined. I want to do more," Luciemable said. "I'm going to make it as though I'm acting, but I'm not acting. I want to make just enough movements to engage the audience."
As far as being nervous goes. David says he only gets nervous in front of small crowds, since he usually knows those people.
"If there are thousands of people, I'm never going to see them the rest of my life, so I don't feel the pressure of messing up as I do with my friends," Luciemable said.
Teitelzweig said the difficulty of the poems, presence and delivery are the key elements in the competition, and another great performance by Luciemable would help cement the school's already stellar reputation in the arts.
"Our art in poetry has not been recognized. David is a wonderful representative. I encouraged him last year when he came back and told him it was time to get ready for next year," Teitelzweig said, who plans on going to Tallahassee with David.
As for the STAMP program she runs, David said it has helped him tremendously since it has helped him see his future more clearly (he wants to be a doctor), since it can be overwhelming looking for a college (Princeton) and picking a major.
"Now I have a mentor I can question, as well as my father. It's nice if my dad doesn't know the answer, I can go to them and vice-versa," David said. "I'm just 16. I have no experience with this."
Matt Vissagio, Luciemable's mentor, said one of his biggest traits is that he is absolutely articulate and passionate about everything.
"The coolest thing is to see the passion this student has. Most people's lives are to wake up, work and go to sleep," Vissagio said. "To see passion for something so noble and cool is very rewarding. That's why I do this."
Best of all, Luciemable is universally liked.
"He's one of those intelligent, non-athletic types who is loved by all. He manages to offer something no matter where he is," Teitelzweig said. "He's different, but in a pleasing way."