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Elizabethtown High School makes it two straight championships in Poetry Out Loud State competition

Elizabethtown High School senior Mary Kate Godfrey emerged as the state champion March 5 in Kentucky’s Poetry Out Loud State Finals at Frankfort’s Grand Theatre.

Fourteen Kentucky high school students represented their respective schools at the poetry recitation contest, which is sponsored by the Kentucky Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Each student is judged on the recitation from memory of two poems, which are selected by the student and their teachers from the official Poetry Out Loud poem anthology.

Usually five students advance to the final round, but a tie among the top five increased that field to six. Each of those finalists recited another prepared poem for the final round.

Chris Cathers (left), Kentucky Arts Council executive director, congratulates Mary Kate Godfrey of Elizabethtown High School on her victory in Kentucky’s Poetry Out Loud State Championship March 5 in Frankfort.

Godfrey’s path to the championship included recitations of “Megan Married Herself” by Caroline Bird and “I Go Back to May 1937” by Sharon Olds in the first and second rounds, respectively. She clinched the state title with her interpretation of “England in 1819” by Percy Bysshe Shelley. She will represent Kentucky at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, April 30-May 1 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Godfrey’s selection of poems represented unusual narratives, mixing comedy and drama. She said she attempted to balance the two in her interpretations.

“I think (comedy and drama) both have their pros and cons. A humorous piece is easy to act out and interpret, but extremely easy to overdo, and do too much where people don’t get it,” she said. “With a sad poem you can do too much and people will be like, ‘no.’ I enjoyed interpreting both kinds.”

This is not Godfrey’s first time in Kentucky’s Poetry Out Loud spotlight. As a sophomore in 2017, she was state runner-up.

“It feels great to come back and have won it this time,” she said.

In addition to marking Godfrey’s second ever appearance in the final round of state competition, this marks the second consecutive year that Elizabethtown High School produced the state champion. Last year, Elizabethtown High School student Kiara Jones represented Kentucky at the national competition, and became the first Kentucky student to advance to the final round of the Poetry Out Loud National Finals since 2011.

Other finalists included runner-up Hannah Tirlea of Scott County High School, Abby Adams-Smith of Bowling Green High School, Courtney Covey of Grant County High School, Luke Martin of George Rogers Clark High School and Nathan Reynolds of Owensboro High School.

In addition to an all-expense paid trip for herself and a chaperone to the national finals, Godfrey will receive $200, and her school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. As runner-up, Tirlea will receive $100, and her school will receive a $200 stipend.

The school champions, their schools and counties are:

• Abby Adams-Smith, Bowling Green High School, Warren
• Michael Ball, Bath County High School, Bath
• Serenity Blevins, Augusta Independent Schools, Bracken
• Brianna Bradford, Betsy Layne High School, Floyd
• Bailey Brooks, Spencer County High School, Spencer
• Courtney Covey, Grant County High School, Grant
• Mary Kate Godfrey, Elizabethtown High School, Hardin
• Allison Hay, Hart County High School, Hart
• Grayson Karleski, St. Xavier High School, Jefferson
• Max Joan Kitoke, Red Bird Christian School, Clay
• Luke Martin, George Rogers Clark High School, Clark
• Jamesha Nellum, Newport High School, Campbell
• Nathan Reynolds, Owensboro High School, Daviess
• Hannah Tirlea, Scott County High School, Scott

Savannah Shivers of Allen County-Scottsville High School was her school’s champion, but could not attend the competition.

For more information about the Kentucky Poetry Out Loud state competition, visit the arts council website.

From Kentucky Arts Council

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