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Ava Neudeck represents West Linn in Poetry Out Loud with three classic poems. 

West Linn High School sophomore Ava Neudeck grew up reading poetry, and on Friday, March 11, she represented her high school in a statewide poetry contest.

Poetry Out Loud is a poetry recitation contest for Oregon high school students in which they have to memorize and present poems. The contest, hosted by the Oregon Arts Commission, is intended to encourage youth to engage with classic American poetry. Neudeck competed in a schoolwide poetry contest where she was selected to represent the high school in the state competition. She advanced to the final round of the statewide competition.Trayshun Holmes-Gournaris, a senior at Oregon School for the Deaf, came in first.

Neudeck said she was interested in the competition as she grew up reading poets like Shel Silverstein and thought it would be a great opportunity to meet new people. She also has been an active member of the Spotlight Musical Theater Academy and wanted to try a different form of storytelling.

"I've noticed a lot of similarities of being on stage for theater and performing poetry. Both allow me to tell others' stories," she said.

To qualify for the event, students must first compete in a small-scale contest in their English classes. The students then advanced to a schoolwide poetry contest. From there, Neudeck was selected to represent her high school in the state competition semifinals before qualifying for the finals on March 11.

During the competitions, students were judged on their physical presence, articulation, dramatic appropriateness and overall performance.

"The whole thing was very exciting. I'm very fortunate to be able to meet people and have this experience. It is so cool," she said.

Due to COVID-19, the event was held virtually this year, and students submitted video recordings of the three poems they chose. Neudeck recited "Acquainted With the Night" by Robert Night; "A Boat Beneath the Sunny Sky" by Lewis Carroll and "Numbers" by Mary Cornish.

"I chose 'Acquainted With the Night' because it's about isolation, and I felt like with the past two years it can relate with a lot of people and also had beautiful word choice. And then I chose 'A Boat Beneath the Sunny Sky', because I loved the story about the changing of a season, and the loss of wonder," Neudeck said, "And then, I chose 'Numbers' because I loved Cornish's word choice, and it's about what it means to be alive and the little things in life."

During the finals, the 11 finalists presented a video recording of themselves reciting one of their three poems. If they advanced to the finals, they would showcase another poem of their choosing. The winner of the state competition walked away with a $200 scholarship and $500 to give to their school library's poetry collection. They also advanced to the national finals in Washington, D.C., to represent their state.

Neudeck selected "A Boat Beneath the Sunny Sky", as her introductory video for the finals. It paid off as she advanced to the finals.

"The whole experience was great overall. The whole point of Poetry Out Loud is to see different types of poems from people my age and enjoy the art form of poetry," Neudeck said.


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