December 10 2019

Burlington High School has Crowned its 2019 Poet Laureate

By: Tad Stephanak

Burlington High School has crowned its Poet Laurate for 2019.   

Mikaila Gnerre, a Senior at BHS, wowed her fellow students and the judges at this year’s Poetry Out Loud competition. Gnerre is Co-Captain of the BHS Poetry Club and competes on the school’s Poetry Slam Team. 

Her final selection in the competition “Ah Why Because the Dazzling Sun” by Emily Bronte was a piece that carries special meaning to Gnerre.

“I love Emily Bronte’s work in general,” she said. “The message is a love letter to the moon, and to the stars and to wanting to sleep. And loving the night more than the day. I actually found the poem my freshmen year and I wanted to save it for special time when I was really ready for it.” 

She also spoke on the encouraging BHS English Department and her poetry instructors Callie Graham and Shannon Janovitz. 

“They both hooked me into poetry my Freshman year,” Gnerre said. “Mr. Hill, my English teacher last year, has also been a huge help in preparing me for performing and with more in depth understanding of poetry so I can appreciate it.” 

BHS English Department Chair Shannon Janovitz spoke on the process of Poetry Out Loud.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” she said. “It’s a huge deal for the students. They all have to choose a poem from the Poetry Out Loud website, memorize it and recite it in class. We have semi-finalists move on and from there we pick eight finalists.”

The teachers and students have been working toward this event since October. 

“There’s a lot of organization involved with the judges and everything,” said Janovitz. “It’s a scramble but it’s a lot of fun. It’s so worth it for the kids.”  

Gnerre will represent Burlington High School in Regional Semi-Finals competition at the Huntington Theater in Boston where she’ll compete with Poetry Out Loud winners from other Massachusetts schools. From there they choose finalists to go on to the Massachusetts state finals. The winner of that contest represents Massachusetts in the national competition. 

Janovitz remarked on the  growth of poetry appreciation at BHS.

“I think the English Department has done a lot of work in the last few years to make poetry more alive for students,” she said. “We do Poetry Out Loud and we also do some slam poetry and we work with MassLEAP in addition to Mass Poetry. So we’ve been working with students to see that it’s really more than just words on a page. And I think the kids are getting something out of it so we’re proud of that work and very proud of the students.”

BCAT wishes the best of luck BHS Poet Laureate Mikaila Gnerre in her poetic pursuits in the competitions to come and beyond. Watch the Burlington High School 2019 Poetry Out Loud competition on the BCAT web site.


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