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Columbia Heights High School ENCORE Student Wins State Poetry Out Loud Competition

Columbia Heights High School (CHHS) ENCORE Poetry Club Sophomore Sophie Kuether won first place in the state Poetry Out Loud competition – a nationwide poetry recitation contest.

Kuether recited "April Love" by Ernest Dowson, "To Have Without Holding" by Marge Piercy and “I Think I Should Have Loved You Presently” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Her win was announced at a virtual awards ceremony Thursday, March 11 via Zoom hosted by South Central Service Cooperative. Just ten students were chosen from across the state to compete virtually. CHHS was the only school who had more than one student advance to the state competition. Junior Danquyen Le also competed.

“When I found out I won the state competition, I think my house probably starting shaking because I was screaming so loud and jumping all around,” said Kuether about her win. “I chose my pieces because they felt like they had the raw emotion about the different ways love can make you feel.”

Chris Polley, who leads the ENCORE Poetry Club says he’s incredibly proud of Sophie and all the CHHS students in Poetry Club that competed in the competition this year.

“Having a student become a state champion during the pandemic is a testament to the coping powers of poetry and the supportive community we formed this year to discuss and share poetry with each other,” he said. “I wish Sophie the best of luck at the national competition and I'm excited to see her represent our school and city as well as the state of Minnesota alongside the other 51 state winners.”

“The thing I like most about poetry is the different interpretations and reads you can get off of just one piece,” Kuether noted. “I have been working with three poems for a few months now and I still feel like I’m finding out new things about them. My pages of poetry are completely scribbled on in the margins as I discover new things about these complicated pieces, and yet they were still as beautiful as the first time I read them.”

The virtual nature of this year’s competition required students to create and submit video recordings of their recitations instead of performing them live. Students had to pick two poems from the Poetry Out Loud website: one poem had to be published before 1900, and the other had to be 25 lines or fewer. One of the poems could satisfy both requirements.