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Jaffrey high school student preparing for national Poetry Out Loud Championship

Ella Weinmann stands at the mic of the NH Poetry Out Loud competition. She is wearing a black dress with a pink and white flower corsage pinned on her left and is standing in front of a Poetry Out Loud banner with yellow, purple and white flowers behind her.jpg
Cheryl Senter
Courtesy of Ella Weinmann
Ella Weinmann recites poetry at the Poetry Out Loud competition where she took 1st place in the state championship.

Recitations of Emily Dickinson, John Keats and Gerard Manley Hopkins ushered home a victory for Conant High School’s Ella Weinmann in New Hampshire’s latest Poetry Out Loud High School Championship.

Poetry Out Loud is a poetry recitation competition that takes place across the country. Roughly 365,000 students participate each year, according to the organization, with individual states hosting their own contests to select students for the national stage.

The New Hampshire championship took place in March with competitors from 31 local schools.

Weinmann said Dickinson's poetry is her favorite to deliver. She started the competition with Dickinson’s “It was not Death, for I stood up,” and finished with Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover.”

Ella Weinmann recites "The Windhover" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Poetry has been a part of Weinmann’s life since she was little. Her dad is a poet, and her stepmother had her memorize and recite poetry.

But it wasn't until her school required students to participate in the Poetry Out Loud competition as part of their English classes that she found herself making the art form her own.

“There’s something about being up there — it’s like telling a story, almost,” Weinmann said. “It’s very powerful to be able to tell the story the poet is trying to get across.”

The key to performing poetry, she said, is understanding the author’s intent. Once you have that nailed down, she said, you can translate it into the tone of your voice, your hand movements, your pauses and more.

Prior theater experience may have also played a part in Weinmann’s win. She’s been acting since middle school and is a part of Project Shakespeare.

Ella Weinmann recites "It was not Death, for I stood up" Emily Dickinson.

Still, heading into the state championship, Weinmann said she neither expected nor sought a victory.

“Every step of the competition I was like, ‘I’m not going to win,” she said.

But now, she’s excited and nervous to compete in the national Poetry Out Loud Competition in May in Washington D.C.

“One thing I’ve loved about Poetry Out Loud specifically is getting to meet so many wonderful people who also have the same niche passion in a community setting,” Weinmann said.

Until then, she’ll be practicing. And when she's not reciting poetry, Weinmann likes learning about environmental science, participating in service committees and foraging for Chanterelle mushrooms.

We want to hear from you: Is there a poem that reminds you of a special place in NH?Email us a poem, by a poet other than yourself, that evokes the spirit of your special place in New Hampshire to, and tell us what it means to you.

Olivia joins us from WLVR/Lehigh Valley Public Media, where she covered the Easton area in eastern Pennsylvania. She has also reported for WUWM in Milwaukee and WBEZ in Chicago.
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