Honoring Our Poetry Out Loud Finalists and First Original Poetry Award Winners

The Vermont Poetry Out Loud 2020 State Finalists. Photos by Sam Simon.

The Vermont Poetry Out Loud 2020 State Finalists. Photos by Sam Simon.

June 15, 2020

Posted By: Desmond Peeples

Few events bring the country together in the name of poetry like Poetry Out Loud. Each year, in every state, high school students compete to recite poems of every style and era for panels of judges from the local poetry scenes. The students who recite most faithfully and evocatively go on to compete at the national level in Washington, D.C. In 2020, however, the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted this tradition like any other. The national championship was canceled. Some states moved forward with in-person finals while others went virtual or canceled their events. The Vermont Poetry Out Loud finals were among those canceled, despite our best efforts to quickly adapt our processes for a virtual competition. For all those who know the magic of poetry and its power to connect, these cancellations are disappointments—but there is still much to celebrate.

As part of the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation’s efforts to honor this year’s competitors, those students who qualified for state-level finals will each receive $100 from the Poetry Foundation, and will have video recordings of their recitations produced and shared nationally. The Vermont Arts Council is pleased to share the first such video of our state finalists, Eloise Van Meter Silver reciting W.D. Ehrhart’s “Beautiful Wreckage.” Click here to view Eloise’s video on YouTube. We look forward to sharing videos of our other finalists, a complete list of whom is below:

  • Mollie Allen from South Burlington High School
  • Eliza Asante from Vermont Academy
  • Sadie Chamberlain from Lyndon Institute
  • Aiden Coli Milton High School
  • Ethan Lisle Champlain Valley Union High School
  • Kathleen Mayhew from Saint Johnsbury Academy
  • Fred Pohlen from Rice Memorial High School
  • Sam Powers from Woodstock High School
  • Owen Senesac from Bellows Free Academy – Fairfax,
  • Eloise Silver Van Meter from Thetford Academy
The 2020 Original Poetry Award Winners (left to right): Samantha Aikman, Sophie Leggett, and Aaron Brown.

The Vermont Arts Council is also pleased to announce that for the first time, we are also celebrating original poetry by Vermont students. This year we held the first annual Poetry Out Loud Original Poetry Awards in partnership with the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center’s Scholastic Writing Awards. The Arts Council received poems from 12 schools participating in Poetry Out Loud, and nearly 20 students submitted poems. We appreciate the courage and initiative that these students showed in submitting their work, and we encourage them all to continue writing and pursuing publication. This year we selected three winners for the first annual Original Poetry Awards:

Please join us in congratulating this year’s Poetry Out Loud finalists and the winners of our Original Poetry Awards. We hope that next year we will all be able to gather and celebrate poetry in person.

Tags: Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Eloise Silver Van Meter, National Endowment for the Arts, NEA, Original Poetry Awards, poetry, poetry competition, Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud, Scholastic Writing Awards, Vermont Poetry Out Loud


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