Bonanza High School student is among nine Oregon high school students selected to compete for the 2019 Poetry Out Loud state title Saturday in Salem.
Megan Southard, a senior, was among the top three winners of the Southern Regional Poetry Out Loud Contest last week at Rogue Community College, earning her a spot in the state finals and a chance at advancing to nationals.
“I’m really excited,” Southard said. “I definitely wasn’t expecting it.”
Southard has been competing in Poetry Out Loud at the school level since seventh grade, and last year, earned her first trip to the Southern Regionals. This year, she returned, earning her first spot at state.
Poetry Out Loud is a national contest for high school students, organized in Oregon by the Oregon Arts Commission in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Participants memorize and present poems, practicing public performance skills while exploring the complexity of poetry.
Southard, 18, recited and performed three poems chosen from a selection offered by Poetry Out Loud. One had to be 25 lines or fewer and another had to be pre-20th century. The third poem was her choice. She will perform and recite the same three poems – “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost; “The Affliction of Richard” by Robert Bridges; and “To Have Without Holding” by Marge Piercy – at state on Saturday.
Southard has always enjoyed reading and writing poetry. She has been accepted to Corban University in Salem and plans to earn her master’s degree and teach high school English. Her favorite poem is “The Cities Inside Us” by Alberto Rios. “It’s about who we are inside rather than the superficial part …,” she said.
She credits Delana Heidrich, Bonanza’s high school English and speech teacher, with getting her involved in Poetry Out Loud. Heidrich started offering Poetry Out Loud opportunities six years ago in her choir and speech classes and has since expanded the program to include all 7th through 12th graders at Bonanza Schools.
“We’re excited,” Heidrich said of Southard’s finals qualification. “This is the first time Bonanza has made it to the state level.”
Class-level winners compete in a school-wide competition and the school winner competes at the regional contest. This year, Oregon poet and author John Daniel was one of the judges at Bonanza’s school-level contest.
Heidrich said the skills needed to read and interpret poetry align with what students need to know. “I created a curriculum and it touched on a lot of the learning targets for language arts,” she said.
The state contest is from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 9 in Loucks Auditorium at Salem Public Library. Contestants at the state level also will have the privilege of hearing Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford speak about the cultural value of poetry.
State award winners receive $200 and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. along with $500 for their school’s library to add books of poetry. The national Poetry Out Loud competition is scheduled for April 29-May 1 in Washington, D.C. National champions complete for a $20,000 award. The Southern Oregon region representative has won state three times in recent history, and placed at nationals at least once.