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Homer High School Student Will Compete In Poetry Out Loud

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Homer High School Student Mariah McGuire will compete this weekend for the state championship.

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This weekend, the Alaska State Poetry Out Loud event will include a Homer High School Student competing for the state championship and the opportunity to advance to national competition. Mariah McGuire is a senior at Homer High. She spoke to KBBI’s Kathleen Gustafson on Wednesday’s Coffee Table program, about her poems and preparation.

KBBI - Let's talk about the first poem. What is it? And why do you like it?

Mariah McGuire - The poem is Poor Angels by Edward Hirsch. When I was reading it, I both liked the wisdom and message that I got from it. Because there's two contrasting parts of it, the soul and the body. It's kind of like what the soul is doing at that moment versus the body. Like there were parts of it where the body was really nervous, and going up on stage for the school competition. I was also quite nervous. And so when my voice would shake, it would be like the perfect spots in the poem.

KBBI - Can you tell when you're delivering a poem who is listening and who isn't?

McGuire - No, because usually when I deliver poems to large groups of people, I don't wear my contacts or glasses. I can't see how people are receiving my phone.

KBBI - Well, let's just give a listen to that poem.

Poor Angels by Edward Hirsch. At this hour the soul floats weightlessly

through the city streets, speechless and invisible,

astonished by the smoky blend of grays and golds

seeping out of the air, the dark half-tones

of dusk suddenly filling the urban sky

while the body sits listlessly by the window

sullen and heavy, too exhausted to move,

too weary to stand up or to lie down.

At this hour the soul is like a yellow wing

slipping through the treetops, a little ecstatic

cloud hovering over the sidewalks, calling out

to the approaching night, “Amaze me, amaze me,”

while the body sits glumly by the window

listening to the clear summons of the dead

transparent as glass, clairvoyant as crystal.

Some nights it is almost ready to join them.

Oh, this is a strange, unlikely tethering,

a furious grafting of the quick and the slow:

when the soul flies up, the body sinks down

and all night—locked in the same cramped room—

they go on quarreling, stubbornly threatening

to leave each other, wordlessly filling the air

with the sound of a low internal burning.

How long can this bewildering marriage last?

At midnight the soul dreams of a small fire

of stars flaming on the other side of the sky,

but the body stares into an empty night sheen,

a hollow-eyed darkness. Poor luckless angels,

feverish old loves: don’t separate yet.

Let what rises live with what descends.

That’s Homer High School senior, Mariah McGuire speaking to KBBI’s Kathleen Gustafson. The poem is Poor Angels by Edward Hirsch. The competition is this Saturday, but it is not streamed live. You’ll be able to watch it or stream it on Tuesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. on KTOO and at ktoo.org.