Neely Seams is used to standing in front of a crowd. A longtime performer at Greenbrier Valley Theater, Neely has entered a stage many times, dressed in character, to perform her role acting as someone else.
But when she stood in front of the judges of the West Virginia Poetry Outloud Competition to recite Toi Dericotte’s “Passing,” she felt something she wasn’t used to. She felt vulnerable.
Reciting Dericotte’s “Passing,” Neely said, felt like someone had cut out a window into her life and took a glimpse at what it was like to be a biracial teen growing up in a small southern West Virginia town.
“I could relate to the author because I’m biracial,” Neely told the Charleston Gazette-Mail during an interview in September of 2016. “But a lot of people can’t tell and are shocked when they find out.”
“It gets me,” Neely said of the poem. “This is what I do every day.”
Now a freshman at Marshall University, Neely not only won last year’s State Poetry Outloud competition with Dericotte’s “Passing,” she went on to place in the top nine in the National Poetry Out Loud competition.
For her outstanding work, Neely was invited to recite two of the poems she used in competition at the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival. Click here to watch.
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READ: The Charleston Gazette-Mail writes about Neely’s win.