And Twyman has a lot to be proud of today. The New Madrid County Central High School sophomore represented her school at the District Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest in Cape Girardeau, taking top honors. In Jefferson City Tuesday, Twyman was one of top three finalists in a vote so close there was no clear winner until the final numbers were tallied.
"It was a very tough call," said her English teacher Andrea Baker, who also attended the state competition. "The judges said she did a great job."
Competing against six other district finalists from across Missouri, Twyman recited three poems: "To the Ladies" by Lady Mary Chudleigh; "Ballad of Birmingham" by Dudley Randall; and "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou. The contestants' performances were evaluated on volume, speed, voice inflection, posture and presence, evidence of understanding, pronunciation, gestures, eye contact, level of difficulty, overall performance and accuracy.
Baker described her student's performance as "animated. She gets personally involved in the poetry she recites," Baker said. "She picked poems that she could relate to, that were emotional poems that allowed her to get into them a little bit more."
While she didn't take top honors, Twyman did win $200 for her school to purchase poetry books. Also, she now has a year of competition under her belt, which her teacher said should give her an advantage in next year's contest.
While she has always liked poetry, the high school student admitted she had never memorized or recited any previously. But the idea of the competition intrigued her and she began looking for works with meaning to her life.
The "Ballad of Birmingham" is about civil rights, which she said was a topic of interest to her and the message of "To the Ladies" inspired her, she said, because it encourages women to value themselves.
"I had heard a lot about Mayou Angelou and had read some of her poems before," said Twyman. "I chose 'Still I Rise' because it related to girls and people putting them down but 'Still I rise. I'm not going to hold my head down.' Telling people I'm going to be OK, I'm not going to let them get my down."
It is a lesson she will take with her. She is already thinking about next year's competition and what she has learned.
"I learned a lot - I learned that I have another talent - I can recite a poem - I can write them a little bit, well not that well," she said. "Even though I still didn't win - it was a real close competition and I'm planning on doing it again next year. I'm going to keep trying and not give up."
Twyman, the daughter of Atundra Horne and Keith Twyman, said the only time she was really nervous was the first walk up to the stage to recite. "I get nervous until I start saying the poem, then the words just come out. I'm comfortable expressing myself," she said.
Each level of the competition was fun, Twyman said, and it was interesting to hear the selections chosen by the other students.
While she finds meaning in the words of poets, the young woman acknowledged not everyone does. However, she would like them just to listen.
"Poetry is not for everybody but anybody who doesn't like it I think they might enjoy it ... if they listen to the words ... if they understand the poem," she said.
Her teacher agreed, noting that many of the students have found an interest in poetry this year. Baker said she was impressed when some 100 NMCC students competed in the local poetry recitation.
And with Twyman's success at the district and state levels, Baker foresees some competition developing when next year's contest rolls around. "The students," said Baker, "have discovered poetry is a lot cooler and more interesting than they thought."