Junior Abigail Case won with her stirring recitation of three poems at Monday's Poetry Out Loud finals.
Hermon High School junior Abigail Case won the state championships for the Poetry Out Loud competition, and will go the nationals in Washington, D.C., in May. Credit: Megan Garbe / Hermon High School

Hermon High School junior Abigail Case won the Maine state championships for the Poetry Out Loud competition with her stirring recitation of three poems at its finals event, held Monday at Bates College in Lewiston.

Case, coached by Hermon High School English teacher Megan Garbe, was the final winner out of more than 18,000 Maine high school students who participated in Poetry Out Loud this year.

She is the first state winner from the Bangor region since Bangor High School student Will Witham won in 2010. She will attend the national finals in Washington, D.C., later this spring.

Case recited three poems at the state competition, including “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation” by Natalie Diaz,

Respectability” by Tina Boyer Brown and “April Love” by 19th-century poet Ernest Dowson.

“The first two I chose because I wanted to raise awareness and be an ally for Native American issues and the history of colonialism,” Case said. “The second one is about Black Lives Matter and police brutality, and when you are reading it out loud, you are reading the names of people who were killed. It’s nerve wracking but it’s very powerful.”

Case was also a northern regional finalist last year, though the state competition in 2022 was won by Sofya Lantratova of George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill.

“It has been so interesting to watch how it all progressed from the school to regionals to the state, and to keep doing it in front of more people,” Case said.

Poetry Out Loud is a popular yearly competition that began in 2005, a joint program of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. It teaches students in grades nine through 12 about poetry and literature, while also giving them valuable public speaking and performance skills. The hope is to foster the next generation of poets, writers, speakers and performers.

In Maine, the program is run by the Maine Arts Commission.

Winners at the individual school level then progress to a regional competition held in the northern and southern districts, and the top performers at those competitions go to the state finals, which were held on March 13.

Case will be one of 55 high school students from all 50 states, Washington D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands who will travel to Washington, D.C., for the national finals, May 8-10.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.