McPherson competes at Poetry Out Loud

Nine high school-aged poetry champions from around Oregon are set to compete in the state Poetry Out Loud competition on March 16, including Emelia (Emmy) McPherson of Hood River Valley High School. Each Poetry Out Loud competitor has already won both school and regional contests held earlier this year.

Of McPherson’s victory March 9 in Beaverton, HRVHS teacher and Poetry Out Loud adviser Gabe Judah said, “(Her) excellent performances of Walt Witman’s very challenging ‘Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field one Night’ and Hart Crane’s ‘My Grandmother’s Love Letters’ helped her to make it to the final round of the regional competition.

“Her third poem of the evening, ‘Black Boys Play the Classics,’ by Toi Derricotte, propelled her to victory.”

He said that her performance of that poem moved one judge to comment that “Each character had their own movement and voice.”

McPherson, 16, is a trumpet player in three different ensembles and sings soprano is several vocal groups. She is a lettered member of the lacrosse team and plans to pursue the arts in college. This is her third year participating in Poetry Out Loud.

The nine regional champions, ranging in age from 15 to 18, are fine-tuning their recitations, and will be judged on physical presence, voice and articulation, appropriateness of dramatization, accuracy, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty and overall performance. Each contestant must prepare three poems.

The state competition winner, to be announced immediately after the recitations at Saturday’s event, will represent Oregon in the national finals in Washington, D.C., April 29-30.

The Oregon champion wins an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., (with a chaperone), a $200 scholarship and $500 for the school library to purchase poetry books. At nationals, Oregon’s winner will compete for more than $35,000 in scholarships.

This year’s judges are Mike Chaser, assistant professor of English at Willamette University, Crystal Williams, professor of creative writing at Reed College, and Scott Poole, poet and founding director of the Portland literary festival Wordstock. Poole will present an original poem as the invocation for the event.

The competition will be held from 1-4 p.m. in the Spinning Room of the Willamette Heritage Center at Mission Mill, 1313 Mill St. S.E. in Salem.

Poetry Out Loud, now in its eighth successful year in Oregon, involves the memorization and recitation of classic poetry and culminates in a statewide competition.

The program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry: recitation and performance. It builds on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement, and brings aspects of slam poetry, spoken word and theater into the English class.


For more information on Poetry Out Loud, contact the Oregon Arts Commission at 503-986-0082, or visit

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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