Kate Maerten, a 12th-grader at Gerstell Academy in Frederick County, was selected as the Poetry Out Loud Maryland state champion on March 9 during state finals. She was among eight finalists who were selected from 25 Maryland students in eight counties that competed in the statewide competitions. The POL poetry recitation contest is co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, and administered by U.S. state arts agencies and regional organizations across the country. The Maryland POL competition is produced by the Maryland State Arts Council.
During the virtual competition, Maerten recited “Once the World Was Perfect” by Joy Harjo, “No, I Wasn’t Meant to Love and be Loved” by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, and “The Pull Toy” by A.E. Stallings.
Second place was awarded to Paula Yeboah, an 11th-grader at Wilde Lake High School in Howard County, and third place went to Harrison Lynch, an 11th-grader at The King’s Christian Academy in St. Mary’s County. The five remaining finalists were Aimee Pentermann (St. Mary’s County), Colin Benedict (Anne Arundel County), Ellie Heath (Anne Arundel County), Joseph Griffin (Howard County) and Katie Spencer (Anne Arundel County).
Kate Maerten will represent Gerstell Academy at the national semifinals on May 2. It will be streamed online at arts.gov. Maerten will recite an original poem. The top three students will advance to the national finals. Maerten will compete as part of the East Central and Northeast Region, which is comprised of 18 states.
Diana Ricker, English department chair and faculty sponsor of Poetry Out Loud, is responsible for instituting the competition at Gerstell. “Kate has exhibited greatness, and through this experience of winning POL region one championship for three years in a row now she finally persevered, claiming her Maryland state championship title during her senior year. This is a well-deserved accomplishment, and I am so proud of her for not only representing Gerstell Falcons, but also for discovering the beauty and power of her voice. We wish her the best as she enters the National Semifinals in May,” said Ricker.
Participation in POL offers students the opportunity to learn about their literary heritage, build self-confidence and improve their public speaking skills. The process begins in the fall when participating students select three eligible poems from the POL website, analyze and memorize them, and present the poems at their school competitions. In January and February, each school winner moves on to regionals and, in March, at the state finals competition, the participants are evaluated on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding and overall performance.
The Maryland State champion receives $1,200 in combined NEA and MSAC prize funds. The Maryland winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up receives $850 in combined NEA and MSAC prize funds, with $200 for their school library. At the National Finals, Poetry Out Loud awards a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends with $20,000 awarded to the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.