NEA Arts Magazine

An Interview with Jackson Hille, Poetry Out Loud National Champion

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Deborah Pryce and Jackson Hille seated on a leather couch chatting

U.S. Representative Deborah Pryce of Ohio congratulates POL National Champion Jackson Hille in her DC office. Photo: Peter Freeman.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Ohio high school senior Jackson Hille after winning the Poetry Out Loud 2006 National Finals.

NEA: How did you choose the poems you recited in competition?

HILLE: Well, I'm an actor, and in theater auditions it's best to have monologues that play to your strengths, that you have a special connection with, and that show a variety of topics and time periods. I chose my poems based on the same standards. My poems all had a way of using humor to deal with a more serious underlying topic, which is a trick I use to stay sane too.

NEA: How have your feelings about poetry changed since being involved in Poetry Out Loud?

HILLE: Before the competition poetry was strictly for bedtime stories for kids. I had never taken a poem seriously outside of a literature class before. It's something that I've come to love, and I'll incorporate it into whatever I do.

NEA: What is the most important thing that you've gained from participating in the program?

HILLE: Other than $20,000, I would have to say the relationship I gained with "my" poems. They're always going to be with me from now on...it's like being able to remember every word of your favorite book and dive into it anytime.

NEA: How did you feel when your name was announced as the national winner?

HILLE: Relieved. All I could think of before they called me was how many awkward phone calls I was going to have to make telling everyone that I didn't win. Once they called my name I was so taken aback that it took about two hours to fully realize what had happened. I think that I should give credit where credit is due. Both of my teachers, Jamie Foley and Lynn Darke, were amazingly supportive and my family deserves thanks just for putting up with me for 18 years.