Poetry lovers rejoiced as some of the best-loved poems in the country came to life at the county council’s chambers earlier this week.

The event was part of the regional championship for the national Poetry by Heart competition.

Seven contestants, aged between 14 and 18, had been selected from hundreds of students competing for a place to represent Dorset in the finals in London later this year.

Each of them had to recite three poems from The Poetry By Heart anthology, one published before 1914, one published after 1914 and one from the World War One Showcase. The audience was treated to favourite poems including Stretcher Bearer by Tommy Crawford and Second Coming by WB Yeats.

Ellie MacDonald, from Bournemouth School for Girls, impressed the judges enough to win the coveted first prize, and will now go on to represent Dorset in the finals in March, which will be held at The National Portrait Gallery.

The other competitors included: Freya Hester from Beaminster School, Charlotte McDonald from Bournemouth School for Girls, Helen Selby, Ferndown Upper School, Weronika Mlodzikowska and Sarah Warham from Leweston School, and Michelle Ezigbo from Shaftesbury School.

The regional final was hosted by Dorset Library Service and the judges included: Katherine Locke, winner of the Brit Writers Award for non-fiction in 2010; Rosie Jackson, a Somerset-based writer and poet; Louisa Parker, a poet, writer and Arts Project co-ordinator from Dorset; Nick Capaldi, who works for Dorset Library Service and is also a singer/songwriter who has performed live on BBC Radio 2; and Lyn Gaudreau, an education improvement advisor with Dorset County Council.

Dr Sally Flint, who lectures in creative writing at Exeter University, enthralled the audience by reading from her latest poetry collection Pieces Of Us.

Sharon Kirkpatrick, senior manager at Dorset County Council Library Service, said: “The students all recited their poems to a very high standard and it was an enjoyable afternoon.”

Cllr Peter Finney, cabinet member for community services at DCC said: “We all wish Ellie the best of luck in the national competition later this year.”

n The national competition is organised by Sir Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate and Julie Blake, director of education for the poetry archive set up Poetry by Heart.