Nevada County Arts announces 2018 Poetry Out Loud champions

Following an evening of recitation from high school students from across the county at Nevada Union High School on Tuesday, Nevada County Arts Council announces the winners of its 2018 County Poetry Out Loud Competition.

Mia Mahurin of Nevada Union High School has won first place for her recitation of Zacuanpapalotls by Brenda Cardenas and Diameter by Michelle Y. Burke. Michael Keene from Ghidotti won second place for Or by Thomas Sayers Ellis and The Albatross by Kate Bass, and Layla Ray won third place for Caged Bird by Maya Angelou and Mega Married Herself by Caroline Bird.

Kirsten Casey, speaking for her fellow judges, Iven Lourie, Stephen Banister, Loraine Webb and Beverly Korenwaser, said: “We all concurred – this was the best recitation group of all the years we have judged.”

Penelope Curtis, who helped organize the final competition said: “I have witnessed the growth of the program for ten years now. The students’ poem choices have gone from “run-of-the-mill” to fascinating.  The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service had to be retired because it was overused throughout the country.  Each year the students’ poems have become more sophisticated and last night’s were exceptional.  Wow… Megan Married Herself by Caroline Bird, funny and provocative. Then we had Or by Thomas Sayers Ellis, thoughtful and also provocative.  Our winner recited a sublime, somewhat Spanglish poem, Zacuanpapalotls by Brenda Cardenas.  As a person who has studied Mexican history and languages, Mia Mahurin conveyed the essence of the poem beautifully, along with all the proper pronunciations. I was blown away.”

Eliza Tudor, Executive Director at Nevada County Arts Council, says: “All these kids are heroes. They work so hard for this competition – we are so grateful to them for stepping up, and to their parents for encouraging them.”

Tudor adds: “Kudos, too, to those passionate English teachers in schools across Nevada County who continue to encourage and inspire participation. Balancing core curriculum with really important aspirational competitions like Poetry Out Loud offers an unparalleled opportunity and requires teachers with vision and students with courage. We are particularly grateful to Steve Hansen for his determined approach to maximum participation – and his encouragement of our kids.”

What’s next for our winners?  Chris Olander, a California Poets in the Schools Poetry Out Loud Coach, and member of Nevada County Arts Council’s Literary Arts Committee, says: “Mia and Michael will be treated to two days at the California Poetry Out Loud State Finals in Sacramento next month. Our county champions will be honored with a dinner reception and each will receive a certificate of recognition from their legislative representative.”

At the state level, one winner will be selected to represent California in the national competition. The California State winner receives a $200 cash prize and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., $500 for their school to purchase literary materials and the opportunity to compete at the National Finals for college scholarship funds. The National Finals in Washington D.C. will be at the end of April.

Tudor says: “Here in Nevada County we also like to provide opportunities beyond the classroom and schools finals for Poetry Out Loud Participants. In early April, those students whose poems speak to the sciences, or which contain references and understanding of technology, engineering or math, we offer an opportunity to recite them at the 2018 STEAM Expo. We also like to showcase our young participants at Sierra Poetry Festival which is scheduled to take place at Sierra College on April 28.  And as if we aren’t keeping them busy enough, we will also live broadcast them during a poetry pop-up at BriarPatch at noon on April 21.”

More information about Poetry Out Loud can be found at and

—By Nevada County Arts Council


Back row from left: Nick Ashbaugh (NU), Allina Kendall (Bear River) , Kevin Cayabyab (NU), Ray Holcomb (Ghidotti),  Savannah Proctor (Bear River), Margot Roa-O’Brien (NU), Camden Criesco (Bear River), Karlie McCracken (NU).

Front row from left: Frather Fanucchi (NU), Lucy Lee Jens (NU), 3rd Place winner Layla Ray (Bear River), Nevada County Poetry Out Loud  Runner-up Michael Keene (Ghidotti), Nevada County Poetry Out Loud Winner Mia Mahruin (NU),  Sarai Devi Dasi (Ghidotti).


Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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