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Anaka Ronan Takes First Place at Poetry Out Loud

Danielle Nelson, Head Writer

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Poetry Out Loud is a poetry recitation competition that was created in 2006 by the National Endowment for the Arts. This year, several students entered the school competition at Helena High which took place on Thursday, February 9th for a chance to make it to regionals. Five Helena High students made it to regionals: Kiara Randall, who took first place, Rebecca Bryan, Anaka Ronan, Erin Sargent, and Maddy Vince.  Kendall Johnson was chosen as the sixth place alternate.

Regionals took place in Butte on Saturday, February 18th. The competition included students from Bozeman, Butte, Capital High, Helena High, and Sheridan. After competing, Ronan and Sargent were still in the running, along with four students from Butte, and a student from Capital as the seventh place alternate. Next, the students competed at a state-level competition in order to win an all expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete at Nationals.

Randall, the first place winner at the Helena High competition, said that although she did not make it past Regionals, she “was just glad to see two people from our school make it.” Randall also added that she “never expected to enjoy reciting poetry” but that the experience was “surprisingly enjoyable.”

The state competition took place on Saturday, March 4th at the Myrna Loy in Helena and included 18 students. Anaka Ronan, a senior at Helena High, won first place and is now going to Washington, D.C. to compete at Nationals. Second place went to Claire Parsons, a sophomore at Hellgate High, and third place went to Clint Connors, a sophomore at Butte High.

Ronan recited “Novels” by Arthur Rimbaud, “Songs of Myself: 35”  by Walt Whitman, and “Quite Frankly” by Mark Halliday.

Ronan said her decision to join Poetry Out Loud was “really on the fly” and that the decision took place at Discussion Group with Mr. Pogreba about three weeks before the competition. She also explained that Poetry Out Loud is the first thing she has been good at on a National level, and that she is “really stoked.” about the experience and the trip to Washington, D.C.

Ronan will compete in Washington, D.C. April 25 and 26th. The semi-finals and finals will be broadcasted live on the Poetry Out Loud website.

Jonna Schwartz, an English teacher at Helena High, was responsible for putting the entire event together. She said she was not surprised that Ronan won and added that she “[gets] goosebumps when [she] listens to her recite.” Schwartz also shared that during the regional competition in Butte, Ronan made a woman in the audience cry.

Margaret Belisle, former Helena High teacher, was the state coordinator for ten years prior to Schwartz and actually passed the interest down to her. Schwartz said she loves coordinating Poetry Out Loud because “it is so addictive” and “fun to watch students from other areas in the arts participate and show their stuff.”

This is not the first time that a student from Helena High has made it to the National Poetry Out Loud competition. Savannah Smith, a senior from last year, won the state competition in 2016. She started competing as a freshman and her four years of hard work finally paid off. At the National competition in Washington, D.C. Smith placed in the top 9.

Schwartz said  “to have back-to-back winners from the same school is really special” and that it has only happened one other time in Poetry Out Loud’s 12 year history.

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Anaka Ronan Takes First Place at Poetry Out Loud