Maine Poetry Champion Announced | Arts & Culture
The Maine Arts Commission today announced Tyler O’Brien of Merriconeag Waldorf High School as the 2012 State Poetry Out Loud Champion and Kiana Sawyer, from Portland High School, as the State Runner-up. Both students will receive cash awards and their schools will receive prize money to purchase poetry books for their libraries.
After surviving classroom, school wide and regional level competitions, ten state finalists gathered in Lewiston to recite three rounds of poetry from memory in front of television cameras and a packed audience at the Olin Arts Center. Tyler O’Brien was selected as state champion and will now represent the State of Maine at the National Poetry Out Loud Finals on May 13-15 in Washington, D.C.
O’Brien, a student who plays the violin and guitar as well as representing his school in various sports and community projects was eager to compliment his fellow competitors, "It was very exciting to share the stage with nine extraordinary people," he said, "and I am glad I got the chance to participate in such a great competition as Poetry Out Loud."
David Sloan, chairperson of the English Department at Merriconeag Waldorf High School, supported Tyler throughout the competition and was thrilled to see his student chosen to represent Maine in Washington. Sloan explained, "Tyler is a wonderful example of the ‘well-spoken’ Waldorf student--poised, appreciative, alive to the inner significance of poetry. I wholeheartedly support the Poetry Out Loud program because it takes poetry off the printed page and allows it to live where it belongs--between speaker and listener."
O’Brien impressed a top panel of judges to become the 2012 State Champion reciting three poems during the competition: "A Super Market in California" By Allen Ginsberg, "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley and "The End of Science Fiction" By Lisel Mueller.
O’Brien will receive an all expenses paid trip for two to the national final, where he will compete for the national title and $50,000 in cash prizes including a grand prize of $20,000. All prizes, as well as all materials for running this popular program in high schools across the nation, come directly from the National Endowment for the Arts and their partner in Poetry Out Loud, the Poetry Foundation.
"We all wish Tyler the best of luck at the National Finals," said Maine Arts Commission Director Darrell Bulmer. "He has shown a remarkable mastery of poetry recitation and a clear understanding of his chosen materials which is certain to serve him well in Washington."
The competition began in Maine during December with 8,000 students competing at the classroom level with the help of 250 teachers from 43 public, private and parochial high schools from 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 came together to compete at either the northern or southern regional competition where five state finalists from each region were selected to compete at the state finals in Lewiston.
The students that competed at this year’s final were:
Bethanie Brown from Waterville Sr. High School; Joshua Elwood from Bangor High School; Monica Frempong from Morse High School; Eloise Harnett from Gardiner Area High School; Brianna Housman from Searsport District High School; Avery Laderer from Boothbay Region High School; Tyler O’Brien from Merriconeag Waldorf High School; Makaela Reinke from George Stevens Academy; Kiana Sawyer from Portland High School and Ellyn Touchette from Gorham High School.