Ten high school students from across the state will take the stage at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston on Friday, March 11, to compete against their peers for the title of Maine State Poetry Out Loud champion. The winner will represent Maine in the national finals of the competition in April in Washington, D.C.
The competition began in the fall with 8,500 students competing at the classroom level with the help of 250 teachers from 45 public, private and parochial high schools across the state. Following a pyramid structure, each classroom produced a class winner and each participating school then held a competition to determine a school champion. In February, the school champions competed at either the northern or southern regional competition, where five state finalists from each region were selected to compete at the state finals.
“I was blown away by the high level of recitation skills exhibited by the regional contestants and especially by those selected to be finalists,” said John Holdridge, Arts in Education associate for the Maine Arts Commission and coordinator of Poetry Out Loud for the state of Maine. “Witnessing these students on stage with their mastery of some of the greatest poems of our literary heritage makes one understand that youth is something to be celebrated.”
In Lewiston, each of the 10 state finalists will recite three poems selected from an anthology of master works compiled for the competition. Competitors will be evaluated by a bank of judges based on accuracy, physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding and overall performance. Cumulative scores from all three rounds will determine a state champion, who will receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete for the national title and a $20,000 scholarship. The winner’s school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The second-place finalist will receive $100, and $200 more for his or her school library. The evening also will feature the music of emcee Emilia Dahlin and the announcement of the new State Poet Laureate.
Doors for the event will open at 5 p.m. Friday, March 11, and the competition and activities will run from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The event is free and open to all. For information on the venue or for directions, visit www.francoamericanheritage.org.
Students competing the final are Ian Hawkes, grade 12, Gorham High School; Bethanie Brown, grade 10, Waterville Senior High School; Crystal Farrington, grade 12, Lake Region High School; Lulu Hawkes, grade 11, Catherine McAuley High School; Eloise Harnett, grade 11, Gardiner Area High School; Morgan Wiggan, grade 10, Thornton Academy; Bethany Bernhardt, grade 10; Erksine Academy; Genevieve Shepard, grade 12, Searsport District High School; Muyne Mohamed, grade 12, Portland High School; and Frank Schuth, grade 9, Shead High School.