Poetry Out Loud Nebraska State Champion


Pictured (from left to right): Carlee Livingston from Summerland Public School (Ewing), Elizabeth Buescher of Marian High School (Omaha), and William Mortensen from Wahoo High School (Wahoo).

Elizabeth Buescher, a junior at Marian High School in Omaha, was named the 2024 Poetry Out Loud Nebraska State Champion. Elizabeth’s English teacher, Marsha Kalkowski and many family members attended the state competition. Buescher recited three poems, “Drowning in Wheat”, by John Kinsella, “Dirge in Woods” by George Meredith, and “August 12 in the Nebraska Sand Hills Watching the Perseids Meteor Shower” by Nebraska’s former State Poet, Twyla Hansen.

Buescher was one of six students from high schools across the state who competed for the title of state champion on Saturday, March 9, at the Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln. William Mortensen from Wahoo High School was named first runner-up, and Carlee Livingston from Summerland Public School in Ewing was named second runner-up.

Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation program for high school students, is sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and is administered in partnership with state arts agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The Nebraska Arts Council organizes Nebraska’s statewide program and partners with Nebraskans for the Arts to conduct activities.  

All Nebraska state finalists advanced through their school or local library competitions to compete in Sunday’s event, which featured special guest presenter, Maria Corpuz, and was emceed by State Poet Matt Mason. Finalists at the competition recited works selected from an anthology of more than 1,200 classic and contemporary poems. Winners were chosen based on a set of criteria including voice and articulation, evidence of understanding, and accuracy.

Buescher will receive $200 and an all-expense paid trip with an adult chaperone to compete for the national championship in Washington D.C. April 30 to May 2. Her school will also receive a $500 stipendfor the purchase of poetry materials. Mortensen will receive $100 and a $200stipend for his school library. The top three students each received originalhand-blown glass trophies courtesy of Nebraskans for the Arts.

Poetry Out Loud, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation, will award a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends at the national competition, including a $20,000 scholarship for the national winner. Since the program began in 2005, more than 4.3 million students and 76,000 teachers from 19,000 schools and organizations across the nation have participated in Poetry Out Loud.

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