Congratulations, Samara Huggins! #POL17

We want to extend our congratulations to Samara Huggins, this year’s national Poetry Out Loud champion! Huggins went to Washington, DC to compete as Georgia’s state champion. According to Patch.com:

To earn the Georgia award, Huggins beat out thousands of students from more than 88 schools in Georgia. She recited “Novel” by Arthur Rimbaud, “Dream Song 14” by John Berryman, and “The Farmer” by W.D. Erhart in three successive rounds at the state competition.

Huggins is a senior at Whitefield Academy in Mableton, Georgia. She received first place in her school’s competition in January, then won the state competition in March. This was her “fourth consecutive year” representing her school in the state finals of Poetry Out Loud.

In addition to her victory in the Poetry Out Loud program, Samara Huggins has also been honored for both for her art and her writing in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

In recent years, students from the South have fared well in the Poetry Out Loud competition. The winner in 2016 was from Virginia, 2014’s winner came from Tennessee, and Youssef Biaz from Alabama took the top prize in 2011.

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“A Mid-Life Crisis at Seventeen”

For many young writers, who are still navigating high school and moving toward college, the notion of publishing a full-length book is a far-off goal— but not for NOCCA senior Courtney Munkres, whose multi-genre collection, A Mid-Life Crisis at Seventeen, is the literary equivalent of a one-woman show. Containing poems, stories, and essays, the book, which is derived from her Gold Key-winning portfolio in the Scholastic Writing Awards, was recently published and is available on Amazon.com through CreateSpace.

Munkres, whose work has been also been recognized by the William Faulkner Creative Writing competition and by The New York Times‘ Teen Voices, seems to commingle bluntness, coyness, and a wry sense of humor in a cohesive mixture that simultaneous reveals and holds back. In one selection, titled “An Honest College Essay,” she writes:

I must warn you, and believe it is only appropriate do so with such an essay as mine: it will be fairly difficult to read. It will lack structure. And include indiscreetly long sentences, multiple subject changes, and a disregard to punctuation: and authenticity.

In another essay, “Sheets,” we find this heavily alliterative passage:

Despite the summer scented dryer sheets that the sheets tumble with in the heat of the dryer, they are relentless in rubbing my hips and shoulders and knees and knuckles with every restless turn. The sheets know me and try to rub away my skin to set free who I once was, before all of the doctors and medicines and treatments. The sheets rub away my skin the way a carpenter sands away the paint from a piece of wood to find the worn, antique wood beneath the cracking and peeling paint.

The sheets know me, and I know them.

Yet, the collection does not only contain essays. The poem “Wide Open” begins with a personification that invites us to follow along:

Solitude is hiding behind a door
Chair leaned forward
Listening at the lock
Listening for a heartbeat,
A thought, a cry,
A breathe, a spark of a match

A Mid-Life Crisis at Seventeen can be purchased inexpensively on Amazon.com. It is available alongside two other collections, Rooftops and Muddy High-tops and Keith.