May 12, 2022

Mascot Debate Boosts Poetry Reading Contest | Rutland Reader

An illustrated first-edition copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” will go to the winner of a poetry-reading contest started by a former resident.

Michael Shank, now from Montpelier, said he launched the “Rutland Ravens Read-Off” in early January, shortly before school commissioners in the town of Rutland voted 6-5 to restore the “Rutland Ravens” moniker. Rutland Raiders”.

“I was disappointed with the vote, but it didn’t change anything in this competition.” Shank said. “I still think what I thought then, which is that the Ravens are a badass mascot and Rutland High School should adopt such a mascot.”

The Raider name and logo were retired towards the end of 2020, with the Ravens name chosen in February 2021. Commissioners in favor of the old name had been working to change it since that spring, finally doing so in early January this year .

“Just from a literary standpoint, this should be a fun project for anyone who loves good poetry,” Shank said.

Shank is known for sponsoring writing and video writing contests aimed at inspiring students to become more engaged in their communities.

The contest offers cash prizes: $500 for first place.

He got the book he is giving away as a prize from the Brandon Free Library. He had told the librarians there about some old books they had stored.

They showed him a first edition of “Le Corbeau” by Edgar Allan Poe, printed in 1884, illustrated by Gustave Doré, the 19th century French artist.

It had been appraised at $500, so Shank offered to donate that amount to the library in exchange. They accepted and the book became his.

“It’s got great illustrations, and it’s a really big book,” Shank said.

Entrants have until the end of February to post a video of themselves reading the poem in the comments under a Facebook post found at, with the most likes being the winner.

A notable participant is former Rutland High School history teacher John Peterson, who retired a few years ago after suffering a heart attack. Peterson said on Monday he is feeling much better these days, but calls his doctors rock stars for giving him an operation that not everyone survives.

Peterson’s entrance is the kind of performance one would expect from a history teacher.

“I have a real interest in living history, dressing up in costume and portraying people from the past, and I had a cool thing that I got from my dad as a prop, a skull that’s a dummy of ventriloquist,” he said, “It was made in New York by the Tannin Co. in the 1800s, and it’s kind of scary.

His father was an amateur magician and a big fan of ballad poetry who liked to recite things like “The Highwayman” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee”.

“He passed that on to me, so I have my dad with me in two ways in the little reading that I did,” Peterson said.

According to Peterson, he said years ago that the Raiders name should be retired.

“I can understand people being emotionally attached to it, but like I said, it’s really wrong. The time for these kind of mascots is really long gone,” he said. “Looking down the road, I know how things are going to work out, but right now there are still people who just don’t want to give up.”

If he wins the book, he said, he’ll likely donate it to the Rutland High School Library.

The contest is open to everyone, Shank said, but Rutland High School students and staff are especially welcome.

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