Mary Margaret Hughes, an 18-year-old senior at Central High School in Springfield, became the 2020 champion of Missouri’s annual Poetry Out Loud competition when our state’s eight regional champions gathered in Jefferson City on March 12 for the state finals.
Poetry Out Loud is the national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country.
Ms. Hughes was slated to go on to represent Missouri at the national finals, vying with 52 other state and territorial champions in Washington, D.C. on April 27-29. However, shortly after the Missouri finals, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation cancelled the national finals because of the rapidly escalating nationwide threat of COVID-19. Both the Missouri Arts Council and the Poetry Out Loud organization are seeking ways to honor the state champions.
Ms. Hughes rose to Missouri’s top spot from more than 4,000 other Missouri high school students who began competing in fall 2019 in a pyramid structure of contests starting at the classroom level, then school-wide, then regional. Ms. Hughes was the champion of the Southwest Region. The Missouri state finals runner-up was 17-year-old Eliza Shaffer, a senior at Pembroke High School in Kansas City.
Ms. Hughes chose these poems for her performance at the Missouri finals:
You can experience on video all eight regional champions at the Missouri finals. Ms. Hughes’ performances and the awards ceremony have also been edited into a single video.