Like a majority of Americans, Corbin Gomez was not always fond of poetry.
"You analyze poetry and I think it's quite boring," said Gomez, an El Dorado Hills 17-year-old.
But Gomez has changed his mind, and will be promoting poetry Friday at a major literary benefit in Sacramento.
He won California's 2012 Poetry Out Loud competition over thousands of other students, and his face is the prominent element on the California Arts Council's page for the high school contest.
Poetry Out Loud, now a national contest with nearly 400,000 participants, pits high school students against one another in dramatic recitation of poems they choose.
Gomez finished in the top 12 nationally.
He will emcee the benefit at the Crocker Museum featuring five top poets, including former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass and Sharon Olds, a two-time National Book Critics Circle Award winner.
It will be his job to introduce Hass at the event, a benefit for scholarships to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers workshop.
The audience may come to hear the poets, but they are bound to recall Gomez.
"The moment that Corbin Gomez steps on the stage, he owns it," said Dana Gioia, the former National Endowment for the Arts chairman who started Poetry Out Loud and watched Gomez at the California competition in the state Senate chambers. "This kid has just this extraordinary physical presence and charisma."
And a deep speaking range that led his competitors at the El Dorado County level to dub him "The Voice."
Poetry Out Loud was part of the classwork when he had an AP English class his junior year at Oak Ridge High School, but it taught him to love poems.
His teacher, Mark Coovelis, once shared some of the traditional misgivings about having students memorize poetry, "it being a torturous experience, awkward for many kids," he said.
"To my surprise, kids really embraced it," he said.
Gomez placed second in the school contest his junior year.
He returned to do it again his senior year, though it wasn't part of class. He loves the performance aspect.
"Corbin's a remarkable young man," Coovelis said. "He takes things up with great enthusiasm."
Like an athlete Gomez was also a competitive swimmer he did the work to succeed in competition.
"He would always arrive with a question, something he would like to work on," said Shawn Pittard, a Sacramento poet who coached Gomez.
He would not only practice the poem to himself and for his coaches, but he worked on understanding it.
He lives with the poems.
"They become like your little brothers and sisters," he said.
One of his poems was "What Work Is" by Philip Levine, the U.S. poet laureate until this month.
Though the poem is nominally about trying to get a job at an auto plant, Gomez takes it much deeper, revealing surprising insights.
Gioia said he recited it better than Levine does.
Analyzing the poems isn't boring now, as long as it's to perform them.
He doesn't just memorize the words, he memorizes meanings, pauses, breath everything it takes to wow judges like Gioia.
At the national level, Gomez finished fourth in the Western region round, one place too low to advance to the finals.
No regrets, though.
He was thrilled to meet students from around the country and impressed by the enthusiasm surrounding a poetry contest, with crowds and cheering.
"It's like a football game," he said. "You wouldn't expect this."