Students from Searsport District High School competed Jan. 13 for a chance to go to the regional competition of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, supported in Maine by the Maine Arts Commission.

Gen Shepard took first place, landing a spot in the regional finals to be held next month. Jamie Knowles and Anderson Denduang took second and third place, respectively.

Searsport has sent competitors to the Poetry Out Loud regionals  for the past three years — both Shepard and Knowles have gone in past years — but according to English teacher Jeff Shula, who served on the four-member panel of judges, this was the first year in which all students were required to participate in the program, memorizing and reciting poems.

The top three students from each class participated in the school finals, and from the 15 or so finalists, the offerings ranged from classic texts like Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” to contemporary, topical works like Adrienne Rich’s “Planetarium” — a feminist, existential look at the universe inspired by late-18th, early-19th-century astronomer Caroline Herschel — read by Knowles, and Jimmy Santiago Baca’s “Who Understands Me But Me” — the unexpectedly inspirational testimonial of a man who is oppressed relentlessly by the outside world yet maintains resiliency in his soul — read by Denduang.

For her winning entries, Shepard picked two emotionally loaded vignettes. Etheridge Knight’s “No Moon Floods the Memory of that Night” is a revolutionary’s remembrance of the bitter moment when he chose a righteous cause over his lover.

“The Albatross” by Kate Bass unfolds in the cold glow of a television as a mother, yoked with a child and an increasingly distant husband, sees her family coming undone and scattering like the string of pearls pulled from her neck by her child.

The Northern Maine semi-regional finals are scheduled for Feb. 17 at the Grand in Ellsworth from 4 to 7 p.m. Admission is free. Participants will be required to read three poems, including one pre-1900 selection, and another 25 lines or fewer.