Kellye Nguyen ’23 Heads to Poetry Out Loud State Finals

Kellye Nguyen ’23 Heads to Poetry Out Loud State Finals
Suzanne Morrissey

As February turned to March, we learned that Kellye Nguyen ’23, who clinched the regional Poetry Out Loud award, would be heading to the state competition along with seven other finalists from around New Hampshire! English Department Chair Kyle Reynolds announced the news to the community, telling us, “Kellye is really great at this, a mix of performance and understanding—and appreciating—poetry.” (He also wished her luck by invoking a “trophy” of sorts he has fashioned from a favorite fruit-shaped cookie jar, saying, “May the golden pineapple of poetry be with you.”) 

Kellye, who studies AP English Language and Composition with teacher Katy Varga-Wells, will recite three poems at the state competition on March 11 at the State House in Concord, N.H. to vie for a spot at the National Finals Virtual Championship later this spring! 

“I enjoy reciting poetry because, to me, it’s the recitation of human lives,” Kellye said of her love for this artistic genre. “Many moments when I feel most alive are when I recite poems. Poetry is my way of practicing how to be a better listener, and interacting with it simultaneously makes me feel that I am listened to. Wherever I am, I feel a strong sense of connection with others when I recite, even with those whom I don’t know.” 

Kellye has selected “Slant” by Suji Kwock Kim, “Whenever You See A Tree” by Padma Venkatraman, and “Lines Written in Early Spring” by William Wordsworth as her three entries. 

“I first chose ‘Slant’ because I fell upon the author during my search for poems to recite in the competition Suji Kwock Kim is a remarkable Korean-American poet,” Kellye told us. “In the poem, Kim redefines happiness and value through seemingly trivial and non traditional things and events in daily lives, and that really stuck with me.” She added that she wanted to underline the importance of keeping an open mind and of trying to look at things through different perspectives in a time “when there is so much uncertainty and, I dare say, chaos.” 

She selected “Whenever You See A Tree” by Padma Venkatraman because of its hopeful tone. “Still, the poem does an amazing job at acknowledging the difficulties of life,” she said. “And this was what caught my interest, because it presents hope in a way that recognizes the story in its entirety and not just its ‘but’s and what-if’s.’ The poem doesn’t disregard reality, it embraces it. 

Kellye recited these two pieces earlier in the competition. For the state finals, she had to select a third poem. She has opted to add “Lines Written in Early Spring” by William Wordsworth to her repertoire. “I chose this poem because I think it expresses well the way many around the world are feeling at the moment. For a while now, I haven’t been able to articulate the feelings and emotions that I see covering the world, and I feel that Wordsworth’s poem here does a really good job at that,” she expressed, adding that she also loves the lyrical flow of the piece, and how is depicts gentle grief and sadness.

Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation program that encourages students to learn great poetry, master public speaking skills, and build self-confidence. It builds on the spoken word as an art form, inviting the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, contextual analysis, and theater into the classroom. Kellye is such a wonderful example of how recitation combines these elements. 

“I think this is a wonderful opportunity to expose students more to poetry. Poetry Out Loud highlights the power of written words, especially poetry, and I’m really honored to have the chance to be a part of this.” 

Best of luck, Kellye! 


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