In the first-ever statewide “Poetry Out Loud” competition held earlier this year — in which poetry recitations were recorded and scored by a panel of virtual judges — 10 students rose through the ranks of schoolwide and regional competitions to compete in the Maine state final, presented by the Maine Arts Commission.

The Maine poetry finalists included Emma Collins, North Yarmouth Academy; Hazel Dow, Waterville Senior High School; Katelyn Nestor, Gardiner Area High School; Emily Paruk, Gorham High School; Zeke Sitarz, Lisbon; Sofia Stockwell, North Haven Community School; Helen Strout, Cape Elizabeth High School; Rose Tuttle, Mount Ararat High School, Topsham; Ada Vancil, John Bapst Memorial High School, Bangor; and Magnolia Vandiver, George Stevens Academy, Blue Hill.

The Maine State Finals judges were Mihku Paul, Ekhlas Ahmed, Erica Rubin Irish, and Todd McKinley.

Because live, in-person events were not possible this year, the commission partnered with Media Loma to create a film that mimics the structure of the usual competitions. The film included three rounds of student recitation videos, as well as performances by musicians from Maine Academy of Modern Music. Former Maine Poetry Out Loud State Champion, Allan Monga, served as emcee in the film. The film was released the week of April 12 on the commission website and social media accounts at

After three rounds of strong performances, a winner emerged. The judges announced Paruk the winner, and she is now on her way to compete in the virtual National Poetry Out Loud competition in May. Strout finished runner-up.

Paruk recited “Once the World Was Perfect” by Joy Harjo, “Fairy-tale Logic” by A.E. Stallings, and [‘Often Rebuked, Yet Always Back Returning’] by Emily Bronte.

Paruk will now represent Maine at the virtual National Poetry Out Loud Finals. This will be the first year in the program’s 16-year history that the national competition to be held virtually. Her first appearance is at noon May 2 during one of three semifinal matches. If she advances beyond the semifinal, Paruk will compete in the national finals at 7 p.m. May 27.

Maine’s Poetry Out Loud program is organized by the commission in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

For more information about Maine Poetry Out Loud, visit or email Meg Fournier, interim director of Media and Performing Arts, Maine Arts Commission at [email protected].

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