Florida Students Recite Poetry

On Saturday, March 11, nearly fifty students representing schools and districts across the state gathered in Tampa for the state’s Poetry Out Loud competition. These young poets practiced their craft for months, first competing in classrooms and later with other students. School winners then traveled to the University of South Florida for the opportunity for scholarships, funds for schools to purchase poetry books, and the chance to compete in the national competition in April.

Each poet is required to memorize three poems of their choice, and all poets recite their first two poems. The top ten poets then recite their third poem in the final round in order to determine the state champions.

Physical presence, voice and articulation, appropriateness of dramatization, evidence of understanding, and accuracy of the recitation are some of the judgment criterion for presentations. Some of Tampa Bay’s biggest consumers of literature served as judges for the event. This included Dr. Helen Wallace, St. Petersburg’s Poet Laureate; Dr. Jay Hopler, a professor of English at the University of South Florida; and Maureen McDole, the founder of Keep St. Pete Lit.

And the winners are…

Reed Worrell, a senior from SAIL High School in Tallahassee, placed third in the competition. He says the top historical figure he would like to meet is Shakespeare. “I could go ask him how he thinks his plays should really be interpreted, and then I could tell people how it should really be done,” he argued.

Nia Getfield, a junior at Haines City High School, took second prize. Nia enjoys learning about the Harlem Renaissance and some of the era’s most famous figures like Marcus Garvey. As part of her future plans, Nia will apply to Marymount Manhattan College in New York City.

Alexis Schuster, a junior from Winter Park High School, was named Florida’s Poetry Out Loud champion. She recited the poems “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” by Adam Zagajewski; “Sanctuary,” by Jean Valentine; and “The Days Gone By,” by James Whitcomb Riley.

Alexis enjoys writing, volunteering, and public speaking. Her favorite book is The Tenth of December, by George Sanders. “It is all very beautiful and intricate,” she says.  “And it does a wonderful job of creating worlds in a unique and strangely accessible way.”

When asked which historical era she would prefer to live in, Alexis insisted on the present. “Right now, the world is a terrible place in many ways. The only way to better the world is to start from now, not the past.”


We congratulate all poets, our runners up, and state champion for all their hard work. Alexis will compete in the national finals April 25-26 at The George Washington University for an opportunity to win a college scholarship. More info about the national competition can be found on the Poetry Out Loud website.

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