Brady Jernigan, 2014 Poetry Out Loud Hawai‘i State Champion

Brady Jernigan, 2014 Hawai‘i Winner, Poetry Out Loud

2014 Hawai’i State Champion Brady Jernigan, Copyright © 2014 Poetry Foundation and The National Endowment for the Arts


Brady Jernigan, a junior from the Military Home Educators’ Network, traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent Hawai‘i in the 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Finals. A second time state winner, Brady had won a trip to the Nationals once before. Here, Brady answers some questions about the competition and poetry in general.

How would you compare your experience at the POL National Finals this time vs. two years ago?

I was definitely more prepared this time. Since I had been to the national competition in 2012, I knew both the level of talent that I was up against and the venue in which the competition was held.

What did you do to prepare?

To prepare for the finals, I practiced my poems between 3-5 times a day for several months before the competition. I spend time reading the poem and deciding how I want to interpret it vocally. I focus on really small details like inflection, facial expression and gestures. My mother is both my biggest fan and a great coach. In the past I have gone to a local theater to practice.

Was there anything you’d do differently if you could do it again?

I think that I would select a different second poem. I did “The Death of Allegory”, but I also really love “After working sixty hours again for what reason” by Bob Hicok.

Were you able to watch the other contestants recite their poems?

I was! I really enjoyed Shivalo Soldier Wolf from South Dakota and Thomas Fields from Missouri. Soldier Wolf had a great cadence of his poems and used pauses and silence to great effect. Fields just had a great voice and selected poems that suited his personality.

Who accompanied you to Washington, D.C.?

My whole family flew in and my grandparents drove up from Atlanta, Georgia to see me. I also had friends and other family members from the D.C. area in attendance so Hawai‘i was well represented! It was great to have so many people supporting me.

What special events were there for the contestants?

There were some great opportunities. After an initial welcome banquet, the Poetry Foundation set up a Congressional Breakfast, where contestants were able to meet their Senators and Representatives. I had the opportunity to visit Senator Brian Schatz’s office and sit in the Gallery of the U.S. Senate.

Who is your favorite poet?

My favorite poet is Billy Collins. He uses wry, satirical humor and portrays everyday objects in a new light. I really enjoy “Forgetfulness”, “Snow Day”, and “The Death of Allegory”.

What role do you think poetry will play in your future?

Once you memorize a poem and present it to people in a recitation it becomes a part of your life forever. I will be able to recite these poems for my children and grandchildren. That’s why it is so important to choose poems that resonate with you. I also read and memorize the poetry from the Bible in the Book of Psalms and these verses speak to my heart and are words to live by.