For a state that extends a mere 1,214 square miles, Rhode Island sure packs a lot of talent. Portsmouth native Zoe Butler, recent champion of this March’s Poetry Out Loud contest, is a perfect example of the impressive potential within Rhody’s modest boundaries. A junior at Portsmouth Abbey School, Zoe utilized her authoritative body language, crisp, mastery of rhythm and captivating content to relay the works of John Donne, Kevin Young and Carolyn Kizer at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in Providence in March. Her attentive embrace of the authors’ messages, allusions and tones account for her victory among a group of 1,800 contestants from 12 local schools.
Poetry Out Loud, which promotes competitions throughout the country, gives young individuals the opportunity to celebrate the nation’s best poetry through their selection and recitation of two to three poems from Poetry Out Loud’s annual anthology. Participants were ranked on various factors, including dramatic appropriateness, level of complexity and evident understanding of their chosen poems. A $200 prize will accompany Zoe’s all-expense-paid trip to George Washington University in Washington, DC where she will compete at the national finals. In addition, the Rhode Island State Council of the Arts has granted Portsmouth Abbey School a $500 stipend for the purchase of new poetry books.