BLUE HILL — Magnolia Vandiver, Class of 2021, was selected the winner of the George Stevens Academy schoolwide Poetry Out Loud competition in December. Asha Kirkland, a member of the Class of 2019, was named runner-up.
Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation competition organized at the national level by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is administered in Maine by The Maine Arts Commission. English teacher Maria Johnson organized the GSA event and introduced the competitors.
Vandiver, Kirkland and Jon Robbins each recited two poems, one contemporary and one from before the 20th century, in front of a panel of judges. Vandiver recited “Author’s Prayer,” by Ilya Kaminsky, and “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus, the poem cast in bronze for display at the Statue of Liberty.
“I was shocked to win,” said Vandiver, who chose “Author’s Prayer” for its imagery and “The New Colossus” because, “although it was written in the 1880s, it seemed so fitting and apropos” to today. To practice, she said she repeated the poems aloud for 30 minutes to an hour each week.
Kirkland recited “No Coward Soul Is Mine,” by Emily Brontë, and “The Albatross,” by Kate Bass. Robbins’ two poems were Rita Dove’s “Banneker” and “A Birthday,” by Christina Rossetti.
Each competitor, said judge Michael Kazmierczak, made a “wow-level connection to the audience” at one moment or another during their recitations. Kazmierczak and the other judges, Martha Horne and Bill Case, all GSA teachers, praised the participants and encouraged them to continue reading and reciting poetry. Accuracy judge Sue Jellison, score tallier Elisabeth de Sévigné and prompter Lucy Morison helped with the event. Jellison and de Sévigné also are teachers at the school.
Vandiver will compete in the Northern Maine Regional Finals at the Hampden Academy Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 3 p.m. For this, she must select and learn a third poem, which she said will be longer than the first two. If for any reason she cannot compete, Kirkland will take her place as runner-up.
Five finalists from that competition and from the Southern Maine Regionals will go on to the state finals in Waterville on March 11, from which a student will be selected to represent Maine at the national competition in Washington, D.C., in mid-spring.
The state competition involves approximately 10,000 students per year, according to The Maine Arts Commission. The “program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.”