By Gretchen Wehmhoff

It started out as an extra credit assignment. Now two Skagway sophomores have found themselves on the list of finalists for the Alaska State Poetry Out Loud (POL) competition. The winner will compete nationally.

POL is a national poetry recitation competition for high school students.

Adelia Deach and Callia Fielding each memorized and recited a poem for the Skagway City School competition in February. As the local winners, Deach and Fielding competed in the Southeast regional competition by recording their performances and sending them on to the judges who decided the Skagway teenagers should head to the state competition.  

The POL website states that one poem must be 25 lines or fewer, and one must be written before the 20th century. One poem may be used to meet both criteria and may be the student’s third poem.

While Deach has participated for three years, she hasn’t had the chance to compete beyond the school event due to illness. This will be her first competition.

“I like poems I can connect to,” said Fielding. 

“I connect with more modern poetry,” said Deach.

The experience has led to friendships over the years. Fielding, a Skagway debater, and Deach practice online with friends and fellow competitors from other parts of Alaska that they have met over the years.

POL state level adjudication will be held Mar. 11-15. The winner and runner-up will be announced by March 15.

Each winner at the state level receives $200 and competes in the national finals. The state’s winning school/organization receives $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up in each state receives $100, with $200 for their school/organization. At the national finals, a total of $50,000 in awards and school/organizational stipends is awarded annually.

POL is a partnership of Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, Alaska State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.