ROSE HOROWITZ, a junior at Mt. Ararat High School, won the 2015 Poetry Out Loud competition on March 11 at the Water ville Opera House. As the state champion, she will represent Maine at the National Poetry Out Loud finals on April 28-29 in Washington, D.C.

ROSE HOROWITZ, a junior at Mt. Ararat High School, won the 2015 Poetry Out Loud competition on March 11 at the Water ville Opera House. As the state champion, she will represent Maine at the National Poetry Out Loud finals on April 28-29 in Washington, D.C.

TOPSHAM

Mt. Ararat High School junior Rose Horowitz, 16, won the 2015 Poetry Out Loud competition on March 11 at the Waterville Opera House and will represent Maine at the National Poetry Out Loud Finals on April 28 and 29 in Washington, D.C. There she will compete for the national title and a total of $50,000 in awards, including a grand prize of $20,000 and school stipends for the purchase of poetry books.

As the state champion Horowitz received an award of $200 and an all expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national championship. Her school received a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.

Horowitz, of Harpswell, first participated in Poetry Out Loud her sophomore year at Mt. Ararat High School when her English teacher, Emily Vail, included the event in the English curriculum. Horowitz is the first state champion from Mt. Ararat, though the school has had four students reach the state finals in its six years participating in Poetry Out Loud.

According to a press release issued by the Maine Arts Commission on the March 11 competition, “Horowitz impressed a top panel of judges to become the 2015 State Champion, reciting three poems during the competition. … She surprised herself — she couldn’t even believe that she made it to the finals. But she was a natural on stage.”

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have formed a partnership with state arts agencies to support the expansion of Poetry Out Loud, which encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.

Times Record: How did you select the poems you would read?

Rose Horowitz: “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones first got me interested in POL. The novel, and resulting Hayao Miyazaki animation, are based on a John Donne poem. I searched around for this poem and, while first confused by its antiquity, I was soon enamored by Donne’s cutting sarcasm and wit. Consequently, I have made sure to recite a John Donne poem in both of my years of POL.

This year I chose “Lover’s Infiniteness” because the voice behind it is so different than the real me, so I get to become a different person when I recite. That’s part of the fun of POL, I get to channel a different person with each poem. I found my other two poems by just scrolling through the POL list of official poems. I liked “Discrimination” by Kenneth Rexroth because it put an alternative spin on racial prejudice, which I’ve had my own experiences with, being Asian in a predominantly white community. I chose “Entirely” by Louis Mac- Niece because it reminded me of myself. As a teenager who thinks it would be much simpler if the world were black and white, trying to decide on a path into the future, I was attracted to what I interpreted as MacNiece’s struggle to find gray area. That’s another thing I love about POL, each reciter forms a different interpretation of a given poem based on their own experiences. Two different people can read the same poem, and the nuances and tone will be totally different.

TR: What challenges did you overcome for the competition and what have you learned about yourself?

RH: I am actually a really shy person who has a hard time speaking to people I don’t know well. I often stumble over words and can’t properly find the words to say what I really mean. Yet, when I recite poetry, I am able to become someone else — an embodiment of the poem, so to speak. I truly believe that POL is helping me to become a more confident person and a more eloquent speaker.

TR: What do you think the judges saw in you and your approach that impressed them so?

RH: I’m honestly surprised I made it this far in the competition. As I listened to the other contestants I kept on admiring their performances and thinking they’re so amazing, I can’t even compare! I can’t really hear or see my own performance, in the same way musical performers don’t know how the audience is hearing their music when they’re behind the mic, so I can’t evaluate my own performance. We each have our own quirks and experiences that influence our interpretations and recitations, and it’s important that we communicate meaning to the audience.

TR: What are your thoughts about going on to the national competition April 28-29 in Washington, D.C.?

RH: I began POL this year expecting to only have to recite in front of a small audience in the Mt. Ararat lunchroom, but it’s totally snowballed and now I’m going to D.C., which is terrifying! I haven’t 100 percent accepted that fact, but despite being super nervous, I’m gradually becoming more excited. I’m also looking forward to hearing other contestants’ recitations, since I’m often inspired by others’ performances. This year I was really inspired at the state competition by my fellow contestant’s recitation of “Monet Refuses the Operation”!

TR: Will you participate in Poetry Out Loud next year too?

RH: I would really like to participate in POL next year as well, and encourage other students to give it a try, even if they’re skeptical. POL brings poetry from a 2D existence into a 3D form which is a new experience for many.

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