RHS Poetry Out Loud Success
Written by Jeremy Long
Hannah Mogford, a senior at Reading, wowed the judges at Millersville University's Ware Center on Feb. 4 and won the regional Poetry Out Loud competition. Mogford, who is also president of the school's Aevidum Club, was the 11th regional champion from Reading High in the past 13 years.
Berks, Lancaster and Lebanon counties make up the Poetry Out Loud region.
"It was wild," Mogford said. "I was completely shocked. The competition was really steep."
Poetry Out Loud was her first foray into competitive recitation.
She now moves on to the state competition which will be held in The State Theatre in Harrisburg on March 4 at 9 a.m.
"She has an amazing stage presence," said Paige Sechler, English department chairperson at Reading High. "She's so charismatic, outgoing. She just has a command over the stage when she walks out there."
What made Hannah's win even more impressive is she defeated the defending state champion , Cedar Crest High School senior Brooke Halinar.
"She was so talented," Mogford said. "I loved her recitation. I thought she was going to win."
Mogford recited the poems “An Apology for Her Poetry” by Duchess of Newcastle Margaret Cavendish, “Megan Married Herself” by Caroline Bird and “I Have a Time Machine” by Brenda Shaughnessy:
"It's very expressive and I always choose poems that leave a little bit more for the audience to think about," Mogford said. "I don't want to do something that is direct."
Mogford won the school-wide competition in December by reciting the poems "Megan Married Herself" and "I Have a Time Machine."
Last year, Prestine Melendez won Reading High's competition but fell short in the regional competition. She lost to Halinar, who went onto win the state competition.
"It's pretty great," Sechler said to see Reading back in the state competition. "I feel like we redeemed ourselves this year."
The school district has had great success competing in Poetry Out Loud. In addition to the 11 regional champions, Reading High has produced two state runners-up and two state champions. DeVonna Smith took the state title in 2011 and Daphnee McMaster took the title in 2012. They moved on to compete at the national championship in Washington.
Reading High School's representative at the state level has never finished lower than fifth place, Sechler said.
At the national level, Smith placed third. She was Pennsylvania's highest finisher to date, according to Sechler.
The program was created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in 2006, and Reading School District students have participated since.
Each year, more than 400 Reading High School students participate in Poetry Out Loud at the classroom level, choosing poems from an online anthology of hundreds of poems, memorizing them and then refining their recitations for the classroom competitions.
The classroom winners then go on to compete in the schoolwide competition.
Mogford believes her acting background helped her prepare for the competition.
"My entire mindset was make sure you're in the poem, make sure you're feeling it and make sure it's reading that way," Mogford said. "When I recite poetry I'm not myself. I'm the person who wrote the poem. I try to let their words come through me."
Now her focus turns to the state competition.
"I know I have a lot of work to do but I think I have a fighting chance," Mogford said.
And she couldn't be happier to be representing her city and school at the state level.
"I think Reading often times has this reputation of being this scary place where nothing really good comes out of it," Mogford said. "But I think people fail to realize the amazing things that come out of Reading High.
"I'm really glad I get to represent the Reading I fell in love with."