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Utah Poetry Out Loud Winner Goes on to National Competition

Photo by Kent Miles from

What began as an interest in poetry in her accelerated English class at Logan High School has evolved for Markaye Hassan into a love not only for poetry, but for the poets themselves.

Her passion is evident when she talks about the process of falling in love with poetry during the course of her class: "We spent a lot of time annotating poems where we would go through and really notice how every single word is so important and all of the different ways you could really apply it to yourself. It is so deep. Every word is so important."

Hassan knows how to read a poem, and not just for her English class. Next week, she'll represent Utah in Washington, D.C., at the finals for Poetry Out Loud, the national poetry recitation contest.

"A lot of it is based on accuracy," she says about the competition.

"They have things like your presence and your voice and your understanding of the poem and your dramatic interpretation of the poem. But a lot of it, like one-fourth of your score, is just how accurate you are. If you mess up a single word, then it really counts against you, so that is one of the biggest things. They want you to be true to the poets."

One of her 3 selections for the competition is "I Felt a Funeral in My Brain" by Emily Dickinson, which she read out loud for Utah Public Radio (click the play button above to listen). With any luck, she'll impress the judges as well as she impressed our listening audience next week at the competition.

Poetry Out Loud was launched in 2006 in high schools nationwide, through a partnership with state arts agencies, including the Utah Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. More than 365,000 students competed last year.

Markaye Hassan's Recitation of "Vixen" by M.S. Merwin during the Utah Poetry Out Loud Competition in March 2012:

At 14-years-old, Kerry began working as a reporter for KVEL “The Hot One” in Vernal, Utah. Her radio news interests led her to Logan where she became news director for KBLQ while attending Utah State University. She graduated USU with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and spent the next few years working for Utah Public Radio. Leaving UPR in 1993 she spent the next 14 years as the full time mother of four boys before returning in 2007. Kerry and her husband Boyd reside in Nibley.