Two Methow Valley students will advance to the Eastern Regional Poetry Out Loud competition, one from Liberty Bell High School (LBHS) and one from the Independent Learning Center (ILC).
Senior Hazel Culpsmith won the LBHS school competition, emerging as the top scorer in a field of 14 contestants, and freshman Bela Moore won the ILC school competition, edging out one other competitor for the top slot. Sophomore Leki Albright and junior Adee Smith were, respectively, first and second runners up in the LBHS contest. If for some reason Culpsmith can’t attend the regional competition, Albright will replace her.
Culpsmith recited “War Ballad” by Stanley Moss and “Emily Dickinson at the Poetry Slam” by Dan Vera. Moore recited “Midnight Office” by Cynthia Cruz and “That’s My Heart Right There” by Willie Perdomo.
A partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and state and jurisdictional arts agencies, Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life, according to the Poetry Out Loud website.
Although students from both LBHS and the ILC participated in the competition at The Merc Playhouse on October 6, they were technically two separate contests — one for each high school. Students memorized and recited two poems chosen from an anthology and were judged on their accuracy, physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, and overall performance.
The scoring judges were Scott Barber, Phil Quevillon, and Boo Schneider. Morgan Sicilia was the accuracy judge. The poetry performance coach was Thome George, who has coached six of the past eight LBHS winners to the state competition. Freshman Zoe Kaltenbach had one of the most demanding performances of the evening, providing lively violin entertainment while judges scored each recitation. The program and contest were coordinated by Liberty Bell teacher Kelly Grayum, with support from teachers Dani Golden and David Aspholm.
Grayum said “It was a very close competition. It was Hazel’s fourth time competing, a wonderful lesson in ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try again.’ Four straight LBHS competitions might be a record for our 10-year Poetry Out Loud involvement, and that practice paid off. From the ILC, Bela worked really hard on her recitations and demonstrated the importance of preparation. She showed a keen willingness to get feedback and she took the competition really seriously.”
The Poetry Out Loud program funnels students from classroom contests to school competitions, to regionals, and then to state finals. Winners in all 50 states as well as six US Territories compete for top honors and tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship prize money.
Methow Valley high school students have participated in Poetry Out Loud for the past decade. Previous Liberty Bell High School competition winners were Leki Albright (2020), Cymone Van Marter (2019 and 2018), Mackenzie Woodworth (2017), Mia Stratman (2016), Lillian Cooley (2015), Claire Waichler (2014), Liam Daily (2013) and the late Tom Zbyszewski (2012).
In addition to the two school winners and the two runners up, other classroom winners in this year’s competition were Damon Alumbaugh, Dexter Delaney, Alex Eslava, Amelia Evans, Gale Gonzales, Melody Langan, Rio Lott, Dashe McCabe, Sophia Newton, Nichola Northey, Clover Thrasher-Frederick, and Lucy Tobiska.
Poetry Out Loud in the Methow Valley is presented in partnership with ArtsWA, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation and Methow Arts. The Public School Funding Alliance also directly supports the local program.