David Murray, who has earned Burlington High School's "Poet Laureate" title for the second year in a row, is headed to the Poetry Out Loud state finals this Sunday at Old South Meeting House in Boston.
Through the national poetry recitation program, Murray advanced first in a classroom competition, then the schoolwide finals. He won the school championship by performing "Epilogue" by Robert Browning, and was crowned with a laurel wreath.
Murray then advanced through the regional semifinals in Framingham on March 7. He has two poems prepared for the state finals, where he will compete with 19 other students. Murray said he is still working on preparing a third poem, which he will need if he advances to the final round.
All Burlington High students are required to participate in the national program, said Murray. Each student at the high school performs for a grade, with the winners from each class competing at the school level.
"The finalists at our school were phenomenal," said Principal Patrick Larkin. "It will be fun to see what state is like. Selfishly, I think it will be tough to top David Murray."In a different twist, one of the final round judges was a "virtual judge." Larkin said Chris Rogers, a teacher from Morrisville, New York, judged the contest through a live-stream video.
Murray's performances at Burlington High are not limited to poetry. With other cast members from the school's upcoming musical "Titanic," Murray performed a song for the School Committee last Tuesday. Murray plays the ship's architect, Thomas Andrews.
A short time later, still wearing his costume, a dapper gray suit, but without his character's Irish accent, Murray recited "Litany," by Billy Collins, one of the poems he will perform on Sunday.
"I've been in a lot of plays on the Burlington High School stage," said Murray. He said he "lives in the band room" as a member of the marching, concert, and jazz bands. He is also a member of Spectrum, the high school's Gay-Straight Alliance, and the Drama and Poetry Clubs. Last fall, Murray co-founded a school improv group, Idle Hands.
Murray, a senior, said he hopes to study drama at Emerson College.
The contest begins at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at the Meeting House. The winner of the state Poetry Out Loud competition will win $200 and compete at the national competition in Washington, D.C. on April 27. Last year's state winner was Wilmene Hercule, a student at Prospect Hill Academy Charter School in Cambridge.