After preparing since the beginning of the fall school term, 23 high school students came to Salem on March 12–13 for the statewide Poetry Out Loud competition. Poetry Out Loud is a poetry memorization and recitation program intended not only to advance students’ appreciation of poetry but also to hone their public speaking skills. It’s a project of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation and Oregon Arts Commission.
Each of the teenagers who came to Salem had won her or his school competition. At the state contest, they vied to represent Oregon at the national competition, to be held in Washington, DC April 25–27. After three rounds of recitation, Brynn Tran, a 16-year-old junior at Lake Oswego’s Lakeridge High School was declared State Champion, and Alexander Barnes, a 15-year-old freshman at Ashland High School, State Runner-Up. Brynn was awarded $200 plus an all expense-paid trip to Washington (with chaperone), and her school was given $500 to purchase poetry books. Alexander won $100 and $200 for his school to buy poetry.
Oregon has a strong track record in the national competition. In 2006, Michael Santiago of Gresham was one of 10 national finalists; in 2008, Sophia Soberon of Brookings took second place (she’s featured on a DVD of Poetry Out Loud Best Performances published by the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation); and in 2009, Tiffany Hinano Hill of Salem and Eugene was the first deaf student ever to participate, at the state or national level, in the contest. So, let’s root for Brynn on April 25–27!