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Zhaedyn Hodges Sigars, a junior Creative Writing major at Blake High School of the Arts, is state champion for Florida’s Poetry Out Loud competition! He will now represent students throughout the state in the national competition in Washington D.C. on April 30.
“I’m glad to be able to be the one to take on that pressure and to go and give my best try at winning this competition. I want to validate to myself that I can be the poet that everyone around me believes I can be,” explained Zhaedyn in a modest, calm tone.
Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation competition for high school students which is held annually. More than 10,000 students participate in school competitions. School champions are then invited to the state finals.
This year’s competition took place on the campus of USF St. Petersburg on March 2nd. Ms. Casey Curry, the creative writing and journalism teacher at Blake High School, served as Zhaedyn’s teacher and coach in preparation for the competition.
“It didn’t seem like such a big deal until I saw Ms. Curry crying,” said Zhaedyn.
"I am extremely proud of Zhaedyn's opportunity to represent the state of Florida in the national competition" said Ms. Curry. "I'm also thrilled that our long time participation in Poetry Out Loud has helped to place the excellence and talent in the Hillsborough County school district in full view of the state and the nation!"
Zhaedyn performed the poems “Discrimination” by Kenneth Rexroth, “The Song of the Smoke” by W.E.B. DuBois and “The Paradox” by Paul Laurence Dunbar – all of which were selected specifically for Zhaedyn by his peers.
“I felt a strong connection because the subject matter talked about how dirty and repulsive humans can be. I believe that we as humans constantly discriminate against one another and showcase this level of hate that love doesn’t always match up to,” said Zhaedyn.
Each student’s performance is evaluated on their physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, and their evidence of understanding the selected poem.
As the state winner, Zhaedyn won $500 in cash, and an all expenses paid trip to D.C. to compete in the National Finals. In addition, Blake High School’s library will receive a $500 stipend to buy poetry materials.
Although Zhaedyn is excited to compete at the national contest, he is not content. He explained, “My ego is already satisfied but I don’t feel like it’s enough to settle yet."
The national winner receives $20,000 in college scholarship funds.
Good luck Zhaedyn!
Additional information about the Florida Finals can be found at floridahumanities.org/poetry. Information on the national competition can be found at poetryoutloud.org. The 2019 National Finals will be held April 30-May 1, 2019 at the Lisner Auditorium at The George Washington University. The event will be streamed live on the Poetry Out Loud website, and Zhaedyn will perform during the Region 2 time block, which is from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. EST.
Research courtesy of Keith Simmons, The Florida Humanities Council