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Syosset student is state poetry champ

Syosset High School junior Chika Brown, the state

Syosset High School junior Chika Brown, the state champion of Poetry Out Loud, stands alongside high school English teacher Lydia Esslinger. Credit: Syosset School District

Syosset High School junior Chika Brown won the state championship in the national Poetry Out Loud contest and is set to compete this week in Washington, D.C., against finalists from across the country.

Brown, 17, took the top spot over 21 other students in the recitation contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. The state contest was held last month at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.

"When I won I was really grateful, because I felt like I was able to bring something to the poems," she said.

Participants recited three works: a pre-20th century poem, a poem of fewer than 25 lines, and a poem of their choice. Judging criteria included stage presence and articulation. Brown recited "Pastoral Dialogue" by Anne Killigrew, "Requiem" by Camille T. Dungy and "Mulberry Fields" by Lucille Clifton.

She was awarded $200 and $500 worth of poetry books for her school, as well as an all-expenses-paid trip to the finals. To reach the state level, Brown first took the Nassau County crown in February.

The national championship is Tuesday and Wednesday at The George Washington University. Prizes are $20,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place, $5,000 for third place and $1,000 for those placing fourth through 12th.

Brown is a member of her school's Forensics Club, Acting Club and Russian Club. She aspires to be an actress and has participated in numerous local summer programs and conservatories.

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