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The Art of Poetry

High school students study poetry in a unique way during Poetry Out Loud in Charleston.

Poetry Out Loud invites high school students across West Virginia and the U.S. to explore the world of poetry and bring the work of renowned authors to life. This friendly competition encourages students to learn about their literary heritage and gain public speaking skills while competing for cash prizes and the title of national champion. “We believe Poetry Out Loud encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and dynamic recitation competition to high school students all over the county,” says Sally Gifford, public affairs specialist for the National Endowment for the Arts. “The structure as a competition gives fresh energy to this art form and it is a way to get students excited about poetry.”

On March 14, 2014, students from 28 schools will compete at the annual Poetry Out Loud competition in Charleston. The top 10 will compete the following day, and the state champion will win $200 and an all-expenses paid trip to compete at the national level in Washington, D.C. More than 2 million high school students have participated in Poetry Out Loud since the competition was founded in 2006 by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. These two organizations work with state art agencies to provide more than 650 contemporary and modern poems for the Poetry Out Loud anthology and provide assistance with the competition.

The competition itself seems simple. Students select and memorize three poems from the anthology and recite them in front of a supportive crowd and a knowledgeable panel of judges. The judges for the upcoming competition include Mark Davis of Kanawha County Schools, Crystal Good of Affrilachian Poets, West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman, writer Colleen Anderson, and the runner-up of the 2010 WV Poetry Out Loud, Caleb Stacy. “We invite local artists who are involved with poetry in their everyday life to perform and judge the competition so students who are passionate about poetry can see how this can play a role in their lives as they grow up,” says Tabitha Walter, Poetry Out Loud coordinator for West Virginia. The expert panel of judges will evaluate each performance based on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, level of complexity, evidence of understanding, and overall performance.

This year’s national finals will be held at the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University. Semifinals will begin on April 29, 2014, and the national finals will be held on April 30, 2014. For those who wish to cheer on the West Virginia state champion, a live webcast invites the public to watch the semifinal and national finals at

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