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Arts Playlist: Maiss Hussein crowned 2023 Poetry Out Loud state champion

Abigail Ehemann (Second Runner Up), Maiss Hussein (Winner), Kaylee Rathbone (First Runner Up.jpg
Joe del Tufo
Hodgson Vo-Tech High School junior Maiss Hussein (center) holding the 2023 Poetry Out Load state competition first place trophy alongside the runner-ups Abigail Ehemann and Kaylee Rathbone

Maiss Hussein, a junior from Hodgson Vo-Tech High School, was recently crowned champion of the state’s 2023 Poetry Out Loud competition.

Hussein’s recital of “The Poem You’ve Been Waiting For” by Tarfia Faizullah earned her high marks from the judges in the final round. As Poetry Out Loud state champion, Hussein advances to the national semifinals in May.

This week on Arts Playlist, Delaware Public Media’s Kyle McKinnon sat down with Maiss Hussein for more on her Poetry Out Loud title and what to expect from her at nationals.

Hodgson Vo-Tech High School junior Maiss Hussein talks about her Poetry Out Loud state title victory with Delaware Public Media’s Kyle McKinnon

Hodgson Vo-Tech junior Maiss Hussein was recently crowned champion of the state’s 2023 Poetry Out Loud competition.

Hussein says the poems she read had a common theme – love. Her final one was “The Poem You’ve Been Waiting For” by Tarfia Faizullah.

“Everybody has at least once gone through that bad heartbreak whether it's in a relationship or a friendship or something, so I feel like that was just one experience that definitely everybody could relate to," she says. "And I know I’ve had my rough share of friendships, especially being in high school, I feel like being able to relate that to the audience, I was like, ‘this is the one.’”

Hussein adds she likes to read poetry an audience can relate to, but has to have a personal connection to it as well.

“For you to really want to recite or perform that poem, or interpret it, like if you don’t feel it within yourself, how are you going to get somebody else to feel it the same way you do?" Hussein says. "So I kind of think about that when I look at the poems or I’m reading them over, and I’m like, ‘Oh, this? Yeah I felt this.’ I can really express that in a way where other people can understand it in the way that I do or at least get my perspective on it.”

Hussein says her love of poetry only began in the last year and this was her first performance in front of a crowd this size. To calm her nerves, she took her time reading, tapping into her emotions to express how each poem made her feel.

She calls herself more of a reader than a writer – an interpreter at heart. She likes to dive into the nuances of poetry, analyzing vocabulary and punctuation choices, which she says can make all the difference in an interpretation.

Hussein’s win netted her $200 and a trip to the national Poetry Out Loud semi-finals in May.

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Kyle McKinnon is a producer for The Green with a passion for storytelling and connecting with people.
Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.