TMI poetry winner qualifies for state finals

TMI English teacher Sharon Brown congratulates junior Seeley Stephens on her first-place award at the school’s Nov. 26 Poetry Out Loud competition. Stephens’ win qualifies her to advance to state finals in Austin next year.

Seeley Stephens, a junior at TMI – The Episcopal School of Texas, was the winner of the school’s first Poetry Out Loud contest, part of a national recitation competition for high-school students. Runner-up was senior Lauren Chu.

Two students from each Upper School grade were chosen from English-class competitions to participate in a schoolwide contest, in which the participants were required to recite two complete poems from memory. Other class winners competing were: freshmen Sarah Klem and Sofia Miranda-Fred, sophomores Isabel Miller and Alexis Roberts, junior Victoria True and senior Omar Sharaf.

Their choices from the program’s anthology included poems by Lewis Carroll, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes and Edgar Allan Poe as well as works by contemporary poets.

Judges were local professional poets – Bonnie Lyons of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Mo H. Saidi of Voices de la Luna magazine and Jesse Cardona of the University of the Incarnate Word. Students are judged on physical presence (poise), voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding and overall performance.

As first-place winner, Stephens qualified to represent her school in the state finals in Austin on Feb. 23, 2013; if she is unable to participate, Chu will take her place. Winners at the state level may compete regionally and nationally. At the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends will be awarded, including $20,000 for the national champion.

Founded in 2005 by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, the Poetry Out Loud program has competitions in high schools across the country, with some 350,000 students participating last year.