The state final of this year’s Poetry Out Loud competition was held March 23 at the Olin Arts Center of Bates College. Tyler O’Brien of Merriconeag Waldorf High School was named 2012 State Poetry Out Loud Champion and Kiana Sawyer of Portland High School, the State Runner-up. Both students will receive cash awards and their schools will receive prize money to purchase poetry books for their libraries. O’Brien will represent Maine at the National Poetry Out Loud Finals in May in Washington, D.C.

Ten finalists competed including Brianna Housman of Searsport District High School, who had competed in the Maine Drama Festival two weeks earlier. Poetry Out Loud began in Maine during December with 8,000 students competing at the classroom level with the help of 250 teachers from 43 public, private and parochial high schools from across the state. Following a pyramid structure, each classroom produced a class winner and each participating school then held a competition to determine a school champion. In February, the school champions came together to compete at either the northern or southern regional competition where five state finalists from each region were selected to compete at the state finals in Lewiston.

All prizes, as well as all materials for running this popular program in high schools across the nation, come directly from the National Endowment for the Arts and its partner in Poetry Out Loud, the Poetry Foundation. The Maine event is facilitated by the Maine Arts Commission, and MPBN’s Suzanne Nance hosted the final.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or dernest@villagesoup.com.