Valley native top poetry reciter |

Valley native top poetry reciter

Poetry Out Loud winner Lara Cassity first appeared in The Record-Courier as a 2-year-old checking out the toys at the Carson Valley United Methodist Rummage Sale in 2004.

Sixteen years later, Cassity’s recitation of two poems won the day on Wednesday.

The Douglas County senior recited “Don’t Bother the Earth Spirit” by Joy Harjo. For her second recitation, she reached back to the English Civil War for “The Glories of Our Blood and State” by James Shirley.

Both Cassity’s selections were fairly weighty, so she opened with a couple of jokes.

“Why do seagulls fly by the sea?” she asked. “If they flew by the bay, they’d be bagels.”

She said she didn’t ask if she could tell the second joke.

“I just went for it,” she said. “What’s the difference between a filthy bus station and a lobster with breast implants? One is a busty crustacean and the other is a crusty bus station.”

Nine Douglas High School students competed in the annual Poetry Out Loud competition on Wednesday.

“What you did this afternoon was gutsy and brave and that is one of the coolest things that you ever could force yourself to do,” English teacher Mena Dedmon told the students. “As always it was a tight race. It always comes down to a couple of points, a dropped line here, and forgotten word there. All of you represented very, very well.”

For the first time in the last five years, a freshman, Carly Van Wagenen placed in the contest, winning second place.

Third place was Levi Romero, a senior and Douglas High drama student. He performed as Oberon in the steam punk version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” last spring.

Advanced placement teachers Karen Heine, Dedmon, Christine Ensign, Media Center Specialist Jim Polka, English Department Chairman John Leiknes and Honors English and Humanities teacher Mark Lilly served as judges.

Organized by the Nevada Arts Council, 4,400 Nevada high school students have been participating in Poetry Out Loud, where students recite poems from memory.

The state competition is noon March 14 at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts in Reno. The winner of the state competition will represent the Silver State in April in Washington, D.C.

Douglas High School students have done well at the state competition over the past five years.

Douglas High School’s Dominique Groffman won best in state at Poetry Out Loud in 2015 and went on to the national competition. Lea Gifford placed third in the state in 2017.

Poetry Out Loud begins at the local level as students learn about, memorize and present out loud poetry from the website, In 2019, more than 3,500 students, teachers and coaches participated in Nevada’s Poetry Out Loud.