Poetry Out Loud State Champions Stanza Out Above the Rest


Kaylie Miller

Khadijah Thompson and Mary Butgereit with their 1st place awards from the Poetry Out Loud State Finals

Kaylie Miller, Writer

On February 17th, thirty-one talented students flocked to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Montgomery to compete in the state level of Poetry Out Loud. Of these students, two Bob Jones Patriots, Khadijah Thompson and Mary Butgereit, placed first in their separate categories.

Mary Butgereit, a senior, won in Original Recitation. Khadijah, also a senior, won in Anthology Recitation. She will be moving on with others in her category from across the U.S. in the national level of Poetry Out Loud in Washington, D.C. There, she has a chance to win the national title and $20,000.

“It feels amazing. I’ve been flying on Cloud 9 for days… My first thoughts were actually disbelief and unworthiness. When you’re surrounded by so many talented people, it’s hard to actually believe that you’re the best out of all of them,” Khadijah says about her win.

Mary expressed similar thoughts, saying that she was shocked due to the “really tough competition.”

Most people hear about the awards Poetry Out Loud competitors recieve, but few know what truly happens in preparation for this respected competition. Mary’s method? “Before the State competition, I went to a workshop where I worked on presentation and enunciation,” she says.

Khadijah chose to focus on getting her poem down to a science. “I really worked hard on consistency so that I was saying my poems the same way and also making sure I didn’t skip over or leave out any smaller words,” she says.

The state level itself was unsurprisingly stressful. The competitors especially faced intimidation from fellow competitors and the huge venue they performed in.

“The most nerve-wracking part is when you’re watching everyone else go and you’re trying to remember every line of your poem,” Khadijah says.

However, Mary claims that the most stressful moment came from rehearsing. Competitors were able to practice two lines of their poems to get a feel of the space onstage. “I ran up there first and made two huge mistakes…. I ended up running to the bathroom and running through my poem twice in the mirror just to make sure I had it,” Mary says.

Besides winning, the two talented Patriots appreciated other aspects of competition. After her performance, Mary enjoyed the works of the fellow poets in her category. “It’s pretty cool to have the author standing up in front of you and acting out the emotion alongside the poem,” she says.

Khadijah rather relished the rush that came after her performance. “The best part is actually finishing your poem and listening to the applause and hav[ing] everyone tell you how well you did. When they do that, it’s easier to think about not winning because you know that the people at least enjoyed what they heard,” she says.

Make sure to congratulate Khadijah and Mary for winning such an honored competition and keep an eye out for next year’s Poetry Out Loud event.