‘Poetry Out Loud’ winner headed to national event

Posted March 11, 2009, at 7:09 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:02 a.m.

Will Whitham of Bangor High School won the Poetry Out Loud state competition at the Camden Opera House and will represent Maine on April 28 at the national finals in Washington.

Whitham enthralled the audience with his rendition of “The Secret of the Machines” by Rudyard Kipling, and went on to clinch first place by reciting “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth.

The youth will compete with 52 students who have progressed to the final from the 250,000 who began the competition nationally. Scholarships will be awarded at the national contest.

The state runner-up was Alice Hofgren from Waterville High School. Hofgren enchanted the crowd with her performance of “Sonnet CXVI: Let me not to the Marriage of True Minds” by William Shakespeare.

Whitham, a junior at Bangor High, enjoys acting, reading Noam Chomsky and flying kites. His favorite subjects include English and chemistry, and he possesses an avid interest in politics.

Whitham was a hit with the crowd at the state finals, raising laughter and admiration as he calmly proclaimed his life’s ambition to be a desire to graduate from high school.

As for the opportunity to represent Maine at the national finals, “I am simply overjoyed to live in a world where reciting poetry can result in a trip to Washington,” he said.

“William’s recitation in the state final was exquisite and he will prove to be more than a match for his fellow competitors at the national finals,” said Maine Arts Commission Arts in Education associate Paul Faria. “Judging on what I have seen, William is certain to continue distinguishing himself as he completes his high school career.”

Participants in the event included Maine first lady Karen Baldacci, Maine Arts Commission Chairman John M. Rohman and Maine Arts Commission Director Donna McNeil. Guest judges were Annie Finch, Stuart Kestenbaum and Dawn Potter. Accuracy judge Lee Sharkey is the co-editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal and for-mer member of the Maine Arts Commission.

Some 2,700 students from public and private schools participated in the Maine Poetry Out Loud Program. Contestants recited works from an anthology of more than 1000 classic and contemporary poems.

The winner of the Poetry Out Loud Maine finals receives $200, and the winner’s school a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.

Those interested in next year’s competition may contact Paul Faria at 287-2790 or paul.faria@maine.gov.

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