Gabrielle Cooper doesn’t write poetry, but the Gardiner Area High School senior enjoys memorizing and reciting it.

Cooper is one of 10 students from across Maine participating in the Poetry Out Loud Maine State Finals Monday at the Waterville Opera House. The competition begins at 3 p.m.

“I fully enjoy the competition, and each English class in my school participates,” Cooper said. “Since my freshman year, I have become more comfortable with my recitations, and I’ve appreciated the opportunity to work with all of the teachers in the English department while preparing.”

A partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation puts on the Poetry Out Loud contest every year, which encourages students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. The program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life.

Cooper, of Pittston, has been her class president all four years at Gardiner and plays in the school’s concert and jazz band. She said she enjoys Latin and math and riding her horse in her spare time. She found the Poetry Out Loud competition a fun and exciting way to get involved at school.

She was one of 10 regional finalists selected from more than 9,500 participating Maine high school students. Participants must select a poem from the Poetry Out Loud print or online anthology. Winners at the state level receive $200 and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national championship at the end of April.

For this year’s competition, Cooper chose three poems by three different poets with varying themes. She said “The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins has beautiful language and paints a detailed picture. “Please Don’t” by Tony Hoagland is light-hearted on the surface but has a powerful underlying message about the importance of protecting innocence, she said. Cooper said she really connects to her final poem, “To be of Use,” by Marge Piercy, because it discusses the value of hard work and the beauty of seeing progress in your efforts.

“Overall, I enjoy poems with a positive tone that tell a story and put a picture in your mind’s eye,” she said. “The English teachers at my school were an incredible asset in finding poems that fit my style.”

To prepare for the competition, Cooper learned each of her poems by memorizing a few lines each day and reciting them out loud. She’s been working on the memorization and stylization of these poems for months.

“Poems with a rhyme scheme or a plot are easy to memorize, while free verse poems with less of a plot are more difficult for me,” she said.

Cooper is attending Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, in the fall and is leaning toward majoring in economics or anthropology. She said the school has an abundance of foreign study and internship programs she’s looking forward to experiencing.

Cooper is the seventh state finalist from Gardiner Area High School in the last eight years, according to Rie Kittredge, the school’s English department chairwoman.

Students must choose three poems at the state and national levels, according to the rules listed on the Poetry Out Loud website. One poem must be 25 lines or fewer and one must have been written before the 20th century. Students are not permitted to use props or wear costumes.

The other state finalists are senior Natalie Lisnet, Bangor High School; senior Kate Hodgson, Camden Hills Regional High School; senior Antyna Gould, Medomak Valley High School; senior Emma Beyor, Erskine Academy; junior Amran Mahamed, Deering High School; sophomore Jordan Bryant, Greely High School; senior Sabrina Small, Maine Coast Waldorf School; senior Skyler Vaughn, The Maine Girls’ Academy and senior Arielle Leeman, Morse High School.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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