Salem, Oregon – Megan Kim, a senior at Cascade Christian High School in Medford, is the 2017 Oregon Poetry Out Loud state champion. An 18-year-old senior, Kim was one of nine regional finalists who competed in Saturday’s state Poetry Out Loud contest at Salem Public Library. She advances to the national Poetry Out Loud competition, scheduled for April 24-26 in Washington, D.C.

“Falling in love with poetry completely changed how I process the world,” said Kim. “Through the lens of rich language, I get to explore emotion, to ask questions and seek truth, and to connect with other humans in a way that is entirely set apart from any other experience. I really think the truest me is the me that is writing or speaking poetry.”

Kim, who lives in Ashland, serves as editor of her school literary magazine. She is currently applying to several colleges and plans to major in English. When not reading or writing, she enjoys taking long walks, finding good metaphors and singing show tunes in the car. She also plays the flute and studies ballet. Her winning performance at the state contest was a recitation of “Ode” by British poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy.

Megan also recited “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg” by Richard Hugo and “Bleeding Heart” by Carmen Gimenez Smith. You can view Megan’s recitation of “Bleeding Heart” in the video below.

“Megan was a true stand out,” said Mitchell Lenneville, Oregon’s 2016 Poetry Out Loud state champion. “Her recitation had a unique beckoning quality that invited the audience in and allowed the intention of the poet to shine through. She’s going do a great job representing Oregon at the national finals.”

“I never viewed Poetry Out Loud solely as a competition,” said Kim. “To me, it is first and foremost an opportunity to bring words to life and to encourage people to value the arts. I am so thankful for the honor of representing Oregon at nationals and getting to celebrate poetry with a community of people who have also been changed by it. This is a journey I will never forget.”

The other seven students who placed in regional competitions and competed at the state contest Saturday are: Hannah Bachman, St. Mary’s Academy, Portland (2016 regional finalist); Delaney Murray, South Medford High School; Sheila Panyam, Lincoln High School (2016 state finalist); Max Rudd, Sprague High School, Salem (2016 regional finalist); Hannah VanHolle, Logos Public Charter School, Medford; Ramie Warner, Sandy High School; and Joshua Williams, St. Stephens Academy, Salem.

“All nine state contestants gave outstanding performances,” says Deb Vaughn, Arts Commission arts education/Poetry Out Loud coordinator. “All the students brought their own perspectives to their poems, and Megan emerged as the strongest overall presenter.”

Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation contest for high school students, organized in Oregon by the Oregon Arts Commission in collaboration with the NEA and the Poetry Foundation. Participants memorize and present poems, practicing public speaking skills while exploring the complexity of poetry.

In 2015 more than 365,000 students, 2,300 schools and 8,800 teachers participated in Poetry Out Loud nationwide.

The Oregon Arts Commission provides leadership, funding and arts programs through its grants, special initiatives, and services. Nine commissioners, appointed by the Governor, determine arts needs and establish policies for public support of the arts. The Arts Commission became part of the Oregon Business Development Department in 1993 in recognition of the expanding role the arts play in the broader social, economic, and educational arenas of Oregon communities. In 2003, the Oregon legislature moved the operations of the Oregon Cultural Trust to the Arts Commission, streamlining operations and making use of the Commission’s expertise in grant-making, arts and cultural information and community cultural development.

The Arts Commission is supported with general funds appropriated by the Oregon legislature, federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and funds from the Oregon Cultural Trust.