I am writing about a wrongful decision in the Poetry Out Loud contest that was just held in Portland.

The winner was a wonderful young man named Allan Monga, 19, an asylum seeker from Zambia who is studying at Deering High School and is in the process of legally obtaining his U.S. citizenship. He has won the right to represent our state.

He has been told he will not be allowed to read in the national Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington, D.C., on April 23. This decision violates the intention of these contests. He is obeying all the laws governing immigration procedures and the poetry contest rules, and is being excluded by a wrongful interpretation.

I am requesting the decision be reversed and that he be allowed to read.

Portland is a proud refugee resettlement city. We have enthusiastically participated in welcoming new immigrants from all countries, some in desperate flight from horrific situations, seeking shelter in emergency circumstances. In all our history, we have had waves of different peoples come through our community. We have joyfully assisted them in getting settled, finding housing and work, learning English and becoming full members and citizens. We are very proud of them and delighted at the strength and resiliency they have brought to our nation.

This wrongful decision violates all this effort and work. We are deeply upset at this decision.

I am an English teacher in Portland. I have encouraged my students to participate in these contests. I have served as a judge. This is a wrong interpretation of the purpose of Poetry Out Loud and an embarrassment to all of us who have volunteered to assist.

I look forward to hearing as soon as possible that the federal judge who heard a legal challenge to Poetry Out Loud’s rules Wednesday has restored Allan to his rightful position as our representative.

Walden S. Morton

Cape Elizabeth