For the second year in a row, Searsport District High School senior Brianna Housman is headed to the Poetry Out Loud state finals. As always, admission to the finals is free but this year, it’s a really hot ticket.

“Richard Blanco’s going to be there and do an opening presentation; I’m so excited,” said Housman a couple of days before her other March commitment, playing a leading role in SDHS’ entry to the Maine Drama Festival.

The Presidential Inaugural Poet’s presence is expected to beef up attendance Wednesday, March 20. Husson College’s Gracie Theater in Bangor seats 500 and likely will sell out.

“People can go on the Maine Arts Commission website and print out their own tickets; the doors will open at 3:30 and the readings start at 4,” she said.

Housman said she has always loved to write and she loves to perform, so Poetry Out Loud, a national recitation contest, is a good fit.

“I love language in general. When I found out about Poetry Out Loud, the way it combines studying the words with the performing arts, I thought it was the best thing I’d ever heard of,” she said.

Housman entered the first year she was eligible, as a sophomore, but did not win at the school level, which is where the Poetry Out Loud competition starts out. The last two years, she has made both the school and regional cut. On Feb. 6, she was one of five students to win at the Northern Regional in Ellsworth.

Along the way, she has learned about the Poetry Out Loud format and what makes for success in it. One thing she learned last year at the state finals was that she needed to pick more complex poems to recite at that level. Her poems for the state finals this year fit the bill: "On a Drop of Dew" by Andrew Marvell; "More Lies" by Karin Gottshall; and "Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg" by Richard Hugo. The latter has become a personal favorite.

“It has everything — sadness, grief, resolution, hope, happiness, joy — it’s a whole journey. It’s one of my favorite poems ever,” she said.

While Housman has enjoyed reading, and now presenting, poetry for years, she doesn’t write it. Her prose writing has won her accolades, including being named one of the 2012 Governor’s Young Writers of the Year, an accolade she shared with SDHS classmate Amanda Dickey. In the fall, Housman will attend the University of Southern Maine, where she has just wrapped up auditions to the musical theater program.

This is the last time Housman will go to the Maine State Finals of Poetry Out Loud and she knows the field of 10 will be tough. She said participating has been a worthwhile experience aside from the outcomes.

“I just think it’s a good competition. It’s truly open to anybody and it helps build a bunch of skills. And I’ve met some great new friends,” Housman said.

To reserve/print out tickets for the Poetry Out Loud Maine State Finals, visit mainearts.maine.gov. The March 20 event will be filmed by Maine Public Broadcasting Network for future airings.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.