Liberty Bell High School junior Leki Albright is the second two-time winner of the school’s annual Poetry Out Loud contest, and will be joined by Independent Learning Center (ILC) winner Glacier Gilbert as Methow Valley representatives at the Eastern Regional competition in Spokane next year.
The local contest took place Dec. 14 at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp, where nine students from Liberty Bell and five from the ILC each recited two poems before a panel of judges — and a supportive audience that cheered each contestant.
Second place in the Liberty Bell competition went to junior Willow Frady, and third place to senior Melody Langan.
Gilbert, a senior, was followed in the ILC competition by junior Amelia Evans in second place and junior Ila Newman in third.
Albright won the Liberty Bell competition in 2020 as a freshman, and finished second last year. The only other previous two-time winner was Cymone Van Marter in 2019 and 2018.
Although students from both Liberty Bell and the ILC participated in the competition on Dec. 14, 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.
Albright recited “The Legend” by Garrett Hongo and “Sanctuary” by Jean Valentine. Gilbert recited “Semi-Splendid” by Traci K. Smith and “Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood.
Liberty Bell teacher Kelly Grayum, who organized and emceed the event, said this year’s competition was again close. He added that the five ILC students represented the largest contingent of competitors from that school. “The ILC has really expanded its participation in the last two years,” he said.
In addition to the two schools’ winners and runners-up, other students in this year’s competition were Rio Lott, Nora Bosco, Kaydence Camren, Lily Arntsen, Holden Riggs and Gavin Blank from Liberty Bell, and Nicholas Leon and Kayden Clapp from the ILC.
The scoring judges were Don Nelson, Sierra Golden and Subhaga Crystal Bacon. Morgan Sicilia was the accuracy judge, and Sarah Mounsey was the prompter. The poetry performance coach was Thome George. Providing lively fiddle-and-guitar music during the interludes between recitals were Paul Gitchos and John Almquist.
Grayum was assisted by Liberty Bell teachers Dani Golden and David Aspholm.
If any of the winners for some reason cannot attend the Spokane competition, the second-place finishers will be first alternates and the third place finishers will be second alternates. Neither of Liberty Bell’s first two 2021 finishers — winner Hazel Culpsmith and runner-up Albright — were able to compete in Spokane, and third-place finisher Adee Smith went to the regional contest. The ILC’s 2021 winner Bela Moore, then a freshman, also competed in Spokane and advanced to the state finals, where she did not place. She was the first state finalist from the ILC.
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 U.S. 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 11 years. Previous Liberty Bell High School competition winners were Culpsmith (2021), Albright (2020), 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).
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 and Trail’s End Bookstore also directly support the local program.