Minot High’s Gabby Johnson takes state poetry title

Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 3:30 PM CST
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MINOT, N.D. (KMOT) – An up-and-coming thespian at Minot High will represent North Dakota on the national stage.

Your News Leader caught up with Gabby Johnson on what propelled her to take a state title in the spoken word.

Gabby Johnson is certainly not few with words.

This young wordsmith will now be bringing her penchant for prose to the nation’s capital.

Gabby recently won the Poetry Out Loud state competition. These young thespians present already-written poems, and are judged on memorization, accuracy, and dramatization.

”You know, it’s not just reciting the poem. You are the poem. You’re the feelings in the poem,” said Gabby.

One of Gabby’s language arts teachers, Sarah Hicks, said it’s been a pleasure seeing her grow as a speaker.

”I saw her easily figure things out in her own head, but also listen to a lot of criticism and suggestions, and then take those and make those her own,” said Hicks.

For her two recitations, Gabby chose “Ode to the Midwest” by Kevin Young and “Black Matters” by Keith S. Wilson. Her speech coach said she picks things close to her heart.

”When you pick things that you feel very strongly about, I think that it shows to other people, and that’s definitely what made her win,” said Crystal Michel’s, Gabby’s speech coach.

Gabby admits she wasn’t sure at first what the reception to the latter poem would be, but won over the judges.

”Winning and representing kind of shows that North Dakota is willing to listen to these things, and to be able to do that just shows how some people are open minded,” said Gabby.

Gabby recounted for us the moment she found out that she was crowned state champ.

“When they announced the second-place winner I was like wait, that means if one plus one is two, and two plus two is four, that means I got first! Like, what! And you can literally see in some of the pictures, my face is like,” said Gabby, putting her hands on her face in surprise.

Of course, we asked Gabby to share some of her work with us.

”Shall I tell you then that we exist?.... and so this... dark matter is hypothetical. Know that it cannot be seen in the gunpowder of a flower.... For a shadow cannot breathe. It deprives them of nothing,” said Gabby, reciting parts of the Keith S. Wilson poem.

A burgeoning talent, ready to represent the peace garden state on a national level.

Minot has produced four state poetry champions since 2012.

Gabby will be heading to Washington, D.C. in May for nationals, but first will be representing Minot High with her classmates at the state speech competition in Jamestown in April.

Photos courtesy: Neonette Johnson, Crystal Michels, Mason Kramer / Minot High School, Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest