CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Forty-four students from across West Virginia will recite poems by Joy Harjo, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Emily Dickinson, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Tracy K. Smith, Rocket Caleshu and many others during the 2023 Poetry Out Loud state finals competition set for March 10-11, 2023, at the Culture Center in Charleston.

The winner will represent West Virginia at the 2023 national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C., on May 8-10.

Friday’s competition will be hosted by Maggie Holley, the education director at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. For the final round of competition on Saturday, the master of ceremonies will be storyteller, author and recording artist Bil Lepp, whose humorous, family-friendly tall tales and stories have earned the appreciation of readers and listeners of all ages. Lepp is a five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars Contest and winner of the 2018 Vandalia Award.

The semifinal competition begins with Division I at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, March 10, with Division II beginning at 2:30 p.m. Saturday’s final competition begins at 1 p.m.

Hemlock & Hickory, a musical duo made up of Brendan Hearn and Dakota Karper on cello, violin, guitar, banjo and vocals, will perform during the finals. Saturday’s program also features violinist Alasha Al-Qudwah and West Virginia poet laureate Marc Harshman. All sessions are free and open to the public.

Harshman will serve as a judge for the competition, along with West Virginia poets Randi Ward and Joel Peckham; author and songwriter Colleen Anderson; novelist and educator Rajia Hassib; and Kay Goodwin, former secretary of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts.

The state champion receives $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to the national finals. The champion’s school or organization receives $500 to purchase poetry books and materials. The runner-up receives $100, while the school receives $200 for poetry books and materials.

Participating students and teachers receive original works created by West Virginia artists. The state champion and runner-up also will receive trophies handcrafted by West Virginia artist Matt Thomas.

Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in partnership with the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. The program is designed to encourage high school-age students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition.

For more information, contact Jim Wolfe, arts in education coordinator, at (304) 558-0240 or email him at


Berkeley Springs High School – Emma Christie

Bridgeport High School – Morgan Sprouse

Buckhannon-Upshur High School – Haley Butcher

Cabell Midland High School – Taelor Jones

Capital High School – Thomas Ward

Charleston Catholic High School – Joseph Ward

Clay-Battelle High School – Ella Lybarger

East Hardy High School – Jace Thompson

Elkins High School – Clare Talbott

Fairmont Senior High School – Ava McMullen

George Washington High School – Cassidy Dusenbury

Gilmer County High School – Sarah Yoder

Grafton High School – Caroline Wellman

Greenbrier East High School – Lauren Rodgers

John Marshall High School – Angestura Kash

Lewis County High School – Grace Freeman

Lincoln High School – Myah Riley

Logan High School – Isabella Mark

Magnolia High School – Vanessa Cogar

Meadow Bridge High School – Michael Simmons

Moorefield High School – Gary Weese

Morgantown High School – John Spellman

Nicholas County High School – Jasmine Hopson

Nitro High School – Daniel Carte

Oak Glen High School – Riley Harris

Parkersburg High School – Brittany Ward 

Philip Barbour High School – Tara Rice

Richwood High School – Jasmine Jantuah

Ripley High School – Jeremiah Franklin

Scott High School – Maddie Mullins

Shady Spring High School – Kasey Burgess

Sissonville High School – Chance Bragg

South Charleston High School – Cheyenne Baker

Spring Mills High School – Grace Fling

St. Albans High School – Rosemarie Tagayun

St. Marys High School – Willow Peyton

Tyler Consolidated High School – Aubrey Smith

Valley High School – Bella Wyatt

Webster County High School – Logan Vandevender

Weir High School – Tanner Finsley

Westside High School – Riley Lester

Wheeling Park High School – Ava Mick

Woodrow Wilson High School – Hailey Blake

Wyoming East High School – Ty Eller