A Butte High School senior has won an all-expenses paid trip to a national poetry competition after winning first place at the state level.
Sowmya Sudhakar will represent Montana at the Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington, D.C., on April 28-30 by reciting by memory three poems.
“It’s a really big deal,” said Janeen Walsh, Poetry Out Loud adviser and Butte High English teacher. “She has a chance at some scholarships.”
Thousands of dollars in scholarships await national winners.
Sudhakar was a bit surprised by her win.
“It was really unexpected,” said Sudhakar. “It’s an honor to be at the state level. Winning and going beyond is amazing. I’ve never had this opportunity before.”
At the state level, competitors memorized a pre-20th century poem and one comprised of 25 lines or less. Requirements are the same for nationals.
Her selections are “Isla” by Virgil Suarez and “In the Basement of the Goodwill Store” by Ted Kooser. She may toss in “Echo” by Christina Rossetti, a poem that clinched state.
Doug Ruffier, her Advanced Placement English teacher, said he is delighted she won.
“She works at it; she has a feel for words, people and life,” said Ruffier, who will accompany Sudhakar and her father, K.V. Sudhakar, to D.C. “She’s a fabulous kid. She’s a very good student.”
Judges score contestants on poem difficulty, preciseness and feeling, he added. “It’s more voice intonation and facial expression. The judges look for interpretation and accuracy.”
Preparation strategy is a bit nebulous, but Sudhakar has it under control.
“The way I look at these poems, I just keep reading them again and again,” she said. “I get a better picture and understanding so I can present them better.”
Active in choir and Key Club, too, Sudhakar and her family moved to Butte from India by way of Michigan in 2008. Her father is a professor in the metallurgical and materials engineering department at Montana Tech.
With the unexpected victory, Sudhakar is rethinking her college plan to study software engineering.
“After winning state, it really made me reevaluate what I really want to do after graduation,” she said.
Contact Birkenbuel at Renata.Birkenbuel@mtstandard.com or 406-496-5512.