MEET THE ARTIST: Blessed Sheriff
Blessed Sheriff of Montgomery County
On March 7, Blessed Sheriff of Montgomery County participated in her third Poetry Out Loud (POL) finals competition. The 17-year-old attends Richard Montgomery High School, where she is a senior. In 2013, she was the POL Maryland champion and went on to Nationals that year where she placed second.
Blessed heard about the POL competition in middle school from an English Teacher. “I thought it was interesting that poetry was something that was being recognized on a stage, to me is was always in a book. In Poetry Out Loud people are actually getting up on stage. I thought that was a very cool thing,” she says.
When choosing a poem from the Maryland State Arts Council POL website, Blessed looks for an instant connection, then she notes poems she’ll look over a second time. “I go back to the list and I choose the ones that fit me the best. I do different poems every year. Once, I did repeat Heaven by Cathy Song. I did it in ninth and tenth grade. I pick poems that have a narrative to them, like a story. Or about someone I can relate to, or see or imagine. It has very much to do with people and abstract notions like love and family.”
When at the nationals in Washington DC, she said the contestants build camaraderie. “You have to spend more time with people in DC. You are all in the same hotel, so you get to know them and it gives us more of a connection and more opinions, because there are kids coming from the Virgin Islands and Alaska that have totally different cultures. It is more diverse at the nationals.”
Blessed says participating in POL gave her a lot of confidence from being on a stage, choosing the poems and having an understanding of what she is saying. “It is important, because it is hard to command the attention of the audience,” she adds.
In addition, she found a higher calling while participating in the competition. “I have more faith in God because picking your poems and saying them is spiritual to me. Going up there and having to communicate to other people, I have built a faith in God that way. You feel like there is something more than human going on – supernatural almost.”
The Maryland State Arts Council 10th Annual State Finals will held at the Baltimore Museum of Art March 7 in the Meyerhoff Auditorium. The competition is hosted by WYPR’s Aaron Henkin, with musical guest Ruut.