Students take part in poetry contest

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By Jesef Williams

Written poetry came alive earlier this month as local high school students competed in a district-wide poetry contest at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster.

One by one, students took to the stage at Bundy Auditorium and gave their best oral presentation of famous poems.

Keigan Woodhart, a senior at Buford High School, came out on top.

Woodhart and 20 other students from the four Lancaster County high schools took part in the national Poetry Out Loud contest. Participants memorized two poems and performed them in front of a crowd and a panel of judges.

The selected poems were approved by the National Endowment for the Arts, said David Platts, arts specialist for Lancaster County School District, which is participating in Poetry Out Loud for the first time.

Woodhart’s two pieces were “When I Have Fear that I May Cease to Be” and “Jabberwocky,” which he describes as a “nonsense poem” but tells a story through the diction and emotion included.

“I didn’t think I was going to win,” he said. “It was shocking, really.”

Woodhart, who has a collection of original poems, wants to study linguistics in college. He said he loves to be around language and use words in every way possible.

“I’ve been fascinated with books, poetry and writing,” Woodhart said. “I enjoy poetry a lot. It’s like a pastime to me.”

T.J. Armbrust, Woodhart’s drama teacher, said Woodhart’s self-motivation and discipline helped him do well in the competition and should carry him a long way in life.

“He takes it upon himself to get the work done,” Armbrust said. “He’s got a lot of natural talent and ability.”

Although Woodhart has a deep interest in language and performance, this was the first time he took part in a poetry contest.

He said he’s now practicing every day for the regional competition, which will be next month in Spartanburg.

The winners from the three other Lancaster County high schools will join him. They are Ethan Wells of Andrew Jackson High, Michael Bryant of Indian Land High and B’niqua Massey of Lancaster High.

“We were proud of all 21 students who competed,” Platts said. “We’re extremely proud of the winners for taking poetry and bringing it off the page.”

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152