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Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet
Kentucky Arts Council

Tom Musgrave

Grant County Senior Becomes Two-Time
Kentucky Poetry Out Loud Champion

“I do it to enjoy it. I don’t really do it to win. Winning is just kind of a bonus.”
— Grant County High School senior Haley Bryan, 2017 Kentucky Poetry Out Loud state champion

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 9, 2017) — Grant County High School senior Haley Bryan earned her second state champion title March 7 at the Kentucky Poetry Out Loud State Finals in Frankfort.

Twenty Kentucky high school students represented their respective schools on the Grand Theatre stage at the poetry recitation contest, which is sponsored by the Kentucky Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Each student is judged on the recitation, from memory, of two poems, which are selected by the student and their teachers from a preapproved list of works. Five students were selected to advance to the third and final round, where they recited another prepared poem.

“I do it to enjoy it. I don’t really do it to win,” said Bryan, who has participated in the state finals each of her four years in high school, including her first state title in 2015 as a sophomore. “Winning is just kind of a bonus.”

Bryan’s path to the championship included recitations of “Please Don’t” by Tony Hoagland and “Self-Portrait” by Chase Twitchell in the first and second rounds, respectively. She clinched the state title with her interpretation of “Hap” by Thomas Hardy. She will represent Kentucky at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, April 25-26 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

A change in staffing at Grant County High School almost took Bryan out of the running this year, as the teacher who normally handled the paperwork and registration for Poetry Out Loud, Scott Gibbons, took a university teaching job, leaving Grant County.

“By the time it started rolling around, I started asking, ‘Who’s going to do Poetry Out Loud this year?’” Bryan said. “A lot of the teachers were really reluctant to do it, but I understood a lot of them were busy.“

Grant County honors English teacher Sarah Haynes picked up the baton so that the school could hold a championship.

“She’s very kind and understanding,” Bryan said. “I think this is a great program and I fought really hard for us to do it. I don’t think the school didn’t want to do it; I think it was just that we didn’t know what else to do to be involved.”

Other finalists were runner-up Mary Kate Godfrey of Elizabethtown High School, Rachel Horn of Betsy Layne High School, Haley May of Conner High School and Rachel Stinson of Allen County-Scottsville High School.

In addition to an all-expense paid trip for herself and a chaperone to the national finals, Bryan will receive $200, and her school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. As runner-up, Godfrey will receive $100, and her school will receive a $200 stipend.

Along with Bryan, Godfrey, Horn, May and Stinson, other school champions included:

  • Anjuli Alamaddine, Red Bird Christian School, Beverly
  • Chard Carmack, Clay County High School, Manchester
  • Tessa Chilton, Trimble County High School, Bedford
  • Alisabeth Culp, McCracken County High School, Paducah
  • Frances Dougherty, Central Hardin high School, Elizabethtown
  • Taylor Edwards, Marshall County High School, Benton
  • Caroline Handshoe, George Rogers Clark High School, Winchester
  • Sydney Johnson, Bowling Green High School, Bowling Green
  • Emily Marks, Hart County High School, Magnolia
  • Angelica Murphy, Augusta Independent Schools, Augusta
  • Reid Nuckolls, Moore Traditional High School, Louisville
  • Addison Ringstaff, Livingston Central High School, Smithland
  • William Lucas Vance, Leslie County High School, Sizerock
  • James Wolfe, West Carter High School, Olive Hill
  • Alyssa Wray, Boyle County High School, Perryville

For more information on Poetry Out Loud, and to see videos of the finalists’ recitations, visit the arts council’s website.

Matthew Gaddie

Grant County High School senior Haley Bryan recites her final round poem, “Hap” by Thomas Hardy, during the Kentucky Poetry Out Loud state finals March 7 in Frankfort. Bryan emerged as the state champion among 20 competitors from high schools across Kentucky. She also won the state title as a sophomore in 2015.
Matthew Gaddie

Lydia Bailey Brown, Kentucky Arts Council executive director, congratulates Haley Bryan, Grant County High School senior and state champion of the 2017 Kentucky Poetry Out Loud state finals.
Matthew Gaddie

Grant County High School senior Haley Bryan, left, and Elizabethtown High School sophomore Mary Kate Godfrey, were the winner and runner-up, respectively, in the 2017 Kentucky Poetry Out Loud state finals March 7 in Frankfort.

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The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, fosters environments for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.