Sophie Kuether (Photo submitted)

Columbia Heights High School sophomore and ENCORE Poetry Club member Sophie Kuether won first place in the Minnesota State Poetry Out Loud Competition and is moving on to the virtual nationwide finals at a date to be determined.

Kuether recited “April Love” by Ernest Dowson, “To Have Without Holding” by Marge Piercy and “I Think I Should Have Loved You Presently” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Her win was announced at a virtual awards ceremony Thursday, March 11, via Zoom hosted by South Central Service Cooperative. Just 10 students were chosen from across the state to compete virtually. Columbia Heights High School was the only school that had more than one student advance to the state competition. Junior Danquyen Le also competed.

“When I found out I won the state competition, I think my house probably starting shaking because I was screaming so loud and jumping all around,” Kuether said. “I chose my pieces because they felt like they had the raw emotion about the different ways love can make you feel.”

Chris Polley, who leads the ENCORE Poetry Club, said he’s incredibly proud of Kuether and all the Columbia Heights High School students in Poetry Club who competed this year.

“Having a student become a state champion during the pandemic is a testament to the coping powers of poetry and the supportive community we formed this year to discuss and share poetry with each other,” he said. “I wish Sophie the best of luck at the national competition, and I’m excited to see her represent our school and city as well as the state of Minnesota alongside the other 51 state winners.”

The virtual nature of this year’s competition required students to create and submit video recordings of their recitations instead of performing them live. Students had to pick two poems from the Poetry Out Loud website; one poem had to be published before 1900, and the other had to be 25 lines or fewer. One of the poems could satisfy both requirements.

“The thing I like most about poetry is the different interpretations and reads you can get off of just one piece,” Kuether said. “I have been working with three poems for a few months now, and I still feel like I’m finding out new things about them. My pages of poetry are completely scribbled on in the margins as I discover new things about these complicated pieces, and yet they were still as beautiful as the first time I read them.”

See Kuether and other students perform at the Minnesota State Poetry Out Loud Competition at

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