Two Local Students Heading to Poetry Out Loud State Competition

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Senior Amy Eells is establishing herself as Battle Ground High School’s preeminent poetry performance artist. After winning the school’s annual Poetry Out Loud competition for the second consecutive year, Eells advanced to the regional finals on January 22.

At the regional finals, students recited works they selected from an anthology of more than 700 classic and contemporary poems. Judges evaluated student performances on criteria including voice and articulation, evidence of understanding, and accuracy. Eells once again impressed the judges with her recitation of “Mansplaining” by Jennifer Militello and was selected as one of two regional winners, joining Yeshi Berry of the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. By winning the regional competition, Eells and Berry are two of only 12 finalists headed to the state competition in Tacoma on March 7, 2020.

“I’ve always enjoyed reading poetry, and I would sometimes try writing my own,” Eells said. “But there’s something uniquely empowering about performing poetry that really makes the words and their meaning connect. Poetry Out Loud has been a wonderful opportunity that has helped fuel my creative passion.”

The competition, presented in partnership with the Washington State Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. More than 300,000 students nationwide took part in Poetry Out Loud last year.

“Poetry Out Loud is a wonderful tradition for Battle Ground Public Schools, where a very difficult academic endeavor is celebrated and enjoyed,” said event coordinator and BGHS teacher Heather Smithline. “We’re very proud of the success that Amy has had these past two years and know she’ll do an incredible job representing BGHS at the state competition.”

Poetry Out Loud uses a “pyramid” structure that is very similar to how spelling bees work. Competitions begin at the classroom level, with each class’s winner advancing to a schoolwide competition. Winners then have the opportunity to compete in regional and state competitions, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, D.C. where $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be distributed.

“We are obviously proud of the students who put in so much work for this competition,” Smithline said. “We are also very appreciative of the judges, parents, teachers, principals, and students who make the event a huge success every year, as it could not happen without them.”

To learn more, visit Poetry Out Loud.

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