Battle Ground High School senior wins regional Poetry Out Loud competition

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Battle Ground High School senior Amy Eells is establishing herself as the school’s preeminent poetry performance artist. After she won the school’s annual Poetry Out Loud competition for the second year in a row, Eells advanced to the regional finals held at Educational School District 112 on Jan. 22. 

At the regional finals, students recited work they selected from an anthology of over 700 classic and contemporary poems. Judges then evaluated student performances on criteria such as voice and articulation, evidence of understanding and accuracy. A news release from the Battle Ground School District said Eells impressed the judges with her recitation of the poem “Mansplaining” by Jennifer Militello. Eells was selected as one of two regional winners and joined Yeshi Berry of the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. The pair are two of only 12 finalists headed to the state competition in Tacoma on March 7. 

“I’ve always enjoyed reading poetry, and I would sometimes try writing my own,” Eells said in the release. “But there’s something uniquely empowering about performing poetry that really makes the words and their meaning connect. Poetry Out Loud has been a wonderful opportunity that has helped fuel my creative passion.”

The competition, presented in partnership with the Washington State Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance and competition. More than 300,000 students nationwide took part in Poetry Out Loud last year.

“Poetry Out Loud is a wonderful tradition for Battle Ground Public Schools, where a very difficult academic endeavor is celebrated and enjoyed,” event coordinator and BGHS teacher Heather Smithline said in the release. “We’re very proud of the success that Amy has had these past two years and know she’ll do an incredible job representing BGHS at the state competition.” 

Poetry Out Loud operates much like a spelling bee and uses a “pyramid”-like structure. Competitions begin at the classroom level, with the winner from each class advancing to a schoolwide competition. Winners then have the opportunity to compete in regional and state competitions, and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, D.C., where $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be distributed.

“We are obviously proud of the students who put in so much work for this competition,” Smithline said in the release. “We are also very appreciative of the judges, parents, teachers, principals and students who make the event a huge success every year, as it could not happen without them.”

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