Poetry Out Loud finalists take to the Flynn stage

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 3:41 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s a battle of the poets at the Flynn Thursday as high school students from across Vermont take the stage for the Poetry Out Loud state finals.

Champlain Valley Union High School sophomore Mira Novak isn’t afraid of the spotlight. In fact, she’s really excited to share her poetic picks Thursday.

“I’m looking for a lot of drama. Poems should be really interesting and convey a ton of emotion,” Novak said. “Two poems and then three people advance to the final round, which is also tonight. And they just say a third poem that they’ve never done before. So, I have a third poem ready to go that I feel pretty good with.”

The theatre-kid and literature lover is in her second year of competing and says she loves having a chance to improve her public speaking and textual analysis skills. “Poetry is really seen as this kind of fancy form of writing that’s hard to figure out, but I think that there actually is -- especially with choosing your poems -- you can pick something that really speaks to you,” Novak said.

She is one of 10 Vermont students who made it past the semi-final round at the Barre Opera House last week. Despite her success, Novak isn’t focusing on winning. “I’m just going to a place and meeting other people and sharing these poems that I picked out and practiced and just having fun,” she said.

But she’s still certainly going to try for number one. Novak has been working closely with Lizzy Fox Lausier, a CVU English teacher and Poetry Out Loud advisor.

“For one of my poems, ‘Self Portrait,’ I wrote this backstory behind it that connected it to me that was kind of inspired by what Lizzy said to me about thinking about your poem more personally,” Novak said.

“Of course she wants to win. Who doesn’t want to win? But she’s not consumed by that. She’s really just there to build community and do something she loves and have a good time,” Lausier said.

Lausier, a poet herself, has been involved with the contest for years, weaving it into her curriculum to give students a fun way to dive into poetry. “I think it’s really important to have spaces for kids to be able to explore poetry on their own terms and really get to see that this doesn’t have to be an intimidating art form,” Lausier said.

And for students like Novak, it’s a chance to shine, and to make a few new friends along the way.

There will be one winner crowned from the state final round at the Flynn Thursday. The state finalist will then go on to represent Vermont in Washington D.C. at the national level in May.