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Way to Go! Iree Mann of Syosset

Syosset High School junior Iree Mann is the

Syosset High School junior Iree Mann is the New York State champion in the 12th annual Poetry Out Loud competition. She is pictured here in an undated photo with Syosset English teacher Lydia Esslinger. Credit: Syosset School District

A Syosset High School junior with a passion for poetry has won a state championship for her recitation skills.

Iree Mann, 17, placed first in New York’s 12th annual Poetry Out Loud competition, designed to help students master public-speaking skills and learn about literary history.

“It was jaw-dropping,” said Mann, who recited Rita Dove’s “American Smooth,” Terrance Hayes’ “The Golden Shovel” and John Donne’s “Break of Day.” Of her strategy, she said, “I went through the poems line by line and tried to put myself in the poet’s shoes to understand what they were experiencing.”

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation support the program’s administration. The contest’s criteria include accuracy, dramatic appropriateness and evidence of understanding the poems.

Mann received an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to represent the state in the national semifinals, being held April 25-26. She was awarded $200 and her school received a $500 stipend to purchase poetry books.

She initially was selected as a school representative and took first place in a February regional competition held at Stony Brook University. Last month in Syracuse, she bested roughly two dozen regional winners to take the state prize.

Mann is a member of her school’s Law and Justice Society, Forensics Club, African-American Club and Association of Creative Thespians.

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