Connolly traveled to Washington, D.C., on May 9 and May 10 to compete in the NEA's Poetry Out Loud Annual National Finals as Rhode Island's Poetry Out Loud State Champion.

With her original poem, Birdfolk at the End of the World, Classical High School junior Natasha B. Connolly won the 2023 companion competition to Poetry Out Loud, Poetry Ourselves.

Connolly traveled to Washington, D.C., on May 9 and May 10 to compete in the NEA’s Poetry Out Loud Annual National Finals as Rhode Island’s Poetry Out Loud State Champion. In Washington, she also took part in the optional competition, Poetry Ourselves, where she submitted an original poem and garnered first prize. The competition was curated by poet Mahogany L. Browne.

Connolly’s Poem follows:

Birdfolk at the End of the World
By Natasha B. Connolly

you did not bear wings until the last of it,
the final days when the world burned and we set fire to its ashes.
only then did they trace the curve of your bones,
admiring: here is someone who was made for flight.

the shadow of your own escape might swallow you
when acid oozes from the sky like rain
the dark clouds, the drops falling like feathers
the imperceptible outline of you against the night

sprung from your shoulders, your late-grown wings
like crumpled paper, flattened out by the wind.
nothing special, these days, your trash protrusions,
your traitorous and inhuman back, your spine so bright.

in the atomic cloud we are all sick, all dying, all dead,
so what is one more broken thing carving out its home against the sky?
the sky is coming down in a downpour all around you,
yet the crowd surrounds you whispering fly, fall, fight.

Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, a partnership with RISCA, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. For more information, visit

National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit NEA website.

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative partnerships, prizes and programs.

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