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First Poetry Out Loud competition wows audience

HANNA ZDRNJA, Kingswood Regional High School junior, won first prize for her captivating performance of a Spanish and English poem titled, “Doña Josefína Counsels Doña Concepcíon Before Entering Sears” by Maurice Kilwein Guevara on stage at the Wolfeboro Inn in the school’s first Poetry Out Loud contest. (Wolfeboro Community TV photo by Joe Bradley) (click for larger version)
February 18, 2010
WOLFEBORO — The Poetry Out Loud contest, featuring poetry recitations performed by Kingswood Regional High School students on Feb. 9 at the Wolfeboro Inn, had English teachers Stefanie King and Gordon Lang "walking on air," said Lang. "It was way better than expected, better than we could have dreamed," he added.

"The best part was the community involvement," said Lang, "including parents who've never seen their kids perform in an academic event."

Junior Hanna Zdrnja won first prize for her captivating rendition of a Spanish and English poem titled, "Doña Josef'na Counsels Doña Concepc'on Before Entering Sears" by Maurice Kilwein Guevara. Her victory in a field of 16 performers earned her a $15,000 renewable scholarship at New England College, an $11,000 renewable scholarship at Southern New Hampshire University and the $1,000 scholarship offered by the local Rotary Club.

Zdrnja will compete in the Regional Finals on March 9 at Plymouth State University.

The runner up, Currie DeBow, also earned the first two scholarships and a $100 savings bond from Meredith Village Savings Bank for his performance of "Windigo" by Louise Erdrich. DeBow's high score and second place finish thrilled his teacher, Bruce Farr, who told the English teachers, "You guys are doing something right, if you are getting agriculture students to perform poetry."

Jean Brewitt, teacher of the English Academic Placement courses, invited DeBow in to perform for her class the next day, and Lang said a middle school teacher wanted him to share a recitation with his class, as well.

Principal of the Vocational Center, Steve Guyer, when told of DeBow's success, said,

"Currie? But he's so quiet!"

King said the day after the event that she was "still reeling and so impressed" not only with the students' performances but that even parents of performers' friends attended the event.

Additional performers reciting works from such diverse poets as Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Berryman and Billy Collins, a 2001 national poet laureate included, in order of performance: Rebecca Behr, Jake VanMalden, Alex Mitchum, Kimberly Luckern, Andrew Wood, Diana Aponte, Allison Inglis, Allison Wood, Kristina Buswell, Chris Schulte, Kasey Noble, Brianna LeMay and Tiffany West.

It was truly a community endeavor. Students Trevor Murray and Ceci Mancuso hosted the program. Nick Moulton played his guitar in the musical interludes, and members of the Advanced Placement Statistics class, Izak Gilbo, Kelsey Maillet, Kaylee Moore and Amy Thornton ran the numbers for individual scores. Also, students in Farr's classes prepared the floral arrangements.

Judging duties were handled by Karen Baker of the Country Bookseller, Cecile Chase of TD Bank and Rotary, Jeanne Tempest, former editor of the Granite State News, and Randy Dales, pastor of the All Saints Episcopal Church. Jean Brewitt of KRHS was the accuracy judge. Aaron Gauthier served as prompter.

Baker said she enjoyed every minute of her task as judge. "It was a fabulous evening," she said. "The students not only appeared to by enjoying what they were doing, but the degree of talent and understanding of the poems was outstanding." She complimented the camaderie of the students in the audience, as well, and added, "the teachers should be very proud and the students, too."

Supporters not yet mentioned were Wolfeboro Oil, White Mountain Survey, and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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