Two Methow Valley students are headed to the Eastern Regional Poetry Out Loud competition in Spokane on February 3: Adee Smith from Liberty Bell High School and Bela Moore from the Independent Learning Center (ILC).
A freshman, Moore emerged as the top competitor in a field of two at the ILC’s competition in early October. Smith, a junior at Liberty Bell, finished third in a field of 14. Typically the first-place finisher advances to the regional contest, but when the winner has a scheduling conflict, the runners- up take their place. Although this is uncommon, it has happened once before; in 2014 winner Claire Waichler had a conflict with a biathlon race, so runner-up Rowan Post took her place, and later advanced to the state competition.
This year senior Hazel Culpsmith won the Liberty Bell competition, but later learned of a rescheduled international field trip that will conflict with the state competition, to which — in the tradition of Liberty Bell students before her — she would likely advance. First runner-up Leki Albright also has a scheduling conflict with the state competition, due to participating in the National History Day contest. Fortunately for Liberty Bell’s long history of sending strong performers to both the regional and the state competitions, second runner-up Smith is willing and available to represent the school.
Kelly Grayum, the Liberty Bell teacher who runs the Poetry Out Loud program, said “This year we had an extremely talented and motivated group of finalists for the Liberty Bell and ILC competition. Many competitors earned high scores for their recitations. Adee followed up her close second-place finish last year with equally self-assured and polished recitations this year. Adee is a first-class poetry performer, poised to go to Spokane and be a peerless contender for a place at the state competition.”
Moore will recite “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop and “That’s My Heart Right There” by Willie Perdomo. Smith will recite “Emily Dickinson at the Poetry Slam” by Dan Vera and “In the Basement of the Goodwill Store” by Ted Kooser. In addition to practicing on their own time, both students have been mentored by Methow Arts poetry coach Thome George, who has been preparing students for regional, state, and national Poetry Out Loud competitions for years.
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. The 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.
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. These partnerships, said Grayum, maintain “a strong and vibrant culture of poetry at Liberty Bell and the ILC.”