Reports are still trickling in (Twitter stream here), but the core of the story is official: Kristen Dupard, a high school senior from Ridgeland, MS, is this year’s 2012 Poetry Out Loud National Champion.
I cannot say how thrilling this is.
I had the honor of judging Kristen during the Mississippi state finals earlier this year, when she recited poems by Cornelius Eady and Ben Jonson, and knew from her performance that she was a sure shot for national-level entry. Her poise, her command of the poems, her sheer joy at performing them, and her impeccable stage presence told us all that if there was anyone who had a shot at the national title, it was her. She’d won the state-level contest in 2011, too, fending off eight other ferociously talented contestants both years, no small feat itself — but that she took it home over fifty-two other contestants — reciting “Invitation to Love” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar for her final poem — is fantastic news for Kristen, for her family, for the state of Mississippi, and for poetry everywhere. I know no more deserving champion.
Congratulations, Kristen. Way to hit one out of the park.