Stephen Gasser, the winner of Minot High School's first ever Poetry Out Loud contest, didn't want to pick something light or fluffy when he was selecting a poem to recite aloud.
His choice was a poem by one of American literature's spookiest poets, Edgar Allan Poe, a guy who was anything but light and fluffy:
"From childhood's hour I have not been/As others were; I have not seen/As others saw; I could not bring/My passions from a common spring ..." Gasser began, giving an atmospheric reading that included alterations of voice pitch, rhythm and speed until he reached the crescendo.
Andrea Johnson/MDN - - Minot High School-Magic City Campus senior Stephen Gasser, left, was the winner of the school’s first Poetry Out Loud contest on Feb. 16. Senior Abby Bierschbach was the runner-up.
It was a performance that won him a $50 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble and a chance to compete at the state's Poetry Out Loud competition. The winner at state later this spring will compete at the national competition in Washington D.C. for a chance at $20,000.
Ten students, including Gasser, competed in the finals at Minot High School-Magic City Campus on Feb. 16. English teacher Erica Bednar said the finalists had earlier won classroom competitions. The competitors chose the poems they recited from a database on the national Poetry Out Loud competition's website. Bednar organized the competition after hearing about it from another teacher at the school.
"I really like Poe because he's really dark," Gasser said.
by Edgar Allan Poe
From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
Abby Bierschbach, the runner-up, chose a poem that she'd never heard of before: "It Isn't Me" by James Lasdun. Bierschbach said she chose the poem at random. Still, her emotive performance brought loud applause and whoops of appreciation from the audience.
Neither Gasser or Bierschbach are speech competitors or have acted in plays, but they said they've both performed as musicians and have held student office and given speeches.
The other finalists chose to recite poems by poets familiar and obscure, from Trevor Hoggan's performance of "Strange Meeting" by World War I poet Wilfred Owen to Cody Hagel's "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" by American poet Robert Frost. Peter Wilson adopted a British-inflected accent to perform T.S. Eliot's "La Figlia che Piange."
Other finalists included Austin Rice, performing "The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Elizabeth Klingbeil's "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost; Amber Zolondak performing "Nocturne" by Li-Young Lee; Shantell Turner performing "Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou and Ashley Bonen performing "Life in a Love" by Robert Browning.
The poetry recital contest was judged by guest judges from Minot State University. Guest judge Joe Davis, an alumni of Minot High School, later performed some of his own poetry for the crowd. More information about the contest can be found at (www.poetryoutloud.org)