Poetry Out Loud Past Season

Abigail Case named Maine Poetry Out Loud Champion!

Poets, performers, educators, friends, and family gathered at the Olin Arts Center in Lewiston on March 13 to cheer on 10 finalists in the championship rounds of the Maine Poetry Out Loud State Finals. Following three rounds of poetry recitations, Abigail Case, Grade 11 of Hermon High School, was named the champion. She will advance to the national competition in Washington D.C. this spring. Jaime Bueya-Mbiyavanga of Portland High School was named the runner-up.

After two years of virtual competitions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Poetry Out Loud returned to a live event. At the Maine State Finals, Portland Poet Laureate Maya Williams and former Poetry Out Loud state champion Allan Monga, co-hosted the event. Maine Poet Laureate Julia Bouwsma delivered a comedic and inspirational keynote speech and read one of her original poems. Any nervousness that remained among the participants was squashed by the entertainment of Janoah “The Jester” Bailin who entertained the crowd between the rounds of recitation.

Judges Professor Ian-Khara Ellasante, Jeri Theriault, Janet Mitchko, and Todd McKinley worked carefully to evaluate each performance. The recitations are scored based on the following criteria: voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, accuracy, and overall performance. At the state and national finals, each participant memorizes and recites three poems. One poem must be 25 lines or fewer, and one must be written before the 20th century.


This year’s participants at the Maine State Finalists:

Jaime Bueya-Mbiyavanga - Portland High School

Abigail Case - Hermon High School

Mackenzie Chaput - Gardiner Area High School

Marcus Gallagher - Oak Hill High School

Willow Knowles - Kennebunk High School

Lyra Legawiec - Mt. Ararat High School

Innana Piccininni - Bangor High School

John Punnachalil - Oceanside High School

Charlotte Schatz - Maine Coast Waldorf School

Alice Willette - Waterville Senior High School


At the conclusion of the Maine State Finals, Maine Teacher of the Year Matt Bernstein handed out the awards and announced the winners. Abigail Case will now bring the power of her spoken word to our nation’s capital to compete for a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends, as well as a $20,000 scholarship. The 2023 Poetry Out Loud National Finals are planned to be held May 8-10.

Poetry Out Loud is an arts education program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Poetry Foundation, and state arts agencies. The program offers free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. Students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, as well as learn about literary history and contemporary life. Twenty Maine schools and 2,440 students participated in this year’s Poetry Out Loud program.