CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Fifty-one students from across West Virginia will recite poems by Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Sara Teasdale, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Carmen Gimenez Smith, Kevin Young and many others during the 2019 Poetry Out Loud state finals competition set for March 1-2, 2019, at the Culture Center in Charleston.

The winner will represent West Virginia at the 2019 national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C., on April 30 – May 1.

Storyteller, author and recording artist Bil Lepp will serve as master of ceremonies for the state competition. Lepp is a five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars Contest and winner of the 2018 Vandalia Award. His works have received recognition from the Parents’ Choice Foundation, the National Parenting Publications Association and the Public Library Association. In 2011, he was awarded the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award. Lepp is the author of seven books and 16 audio collections.

The semifinal competition begins with Division I at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, March 1, followed by Division II at 2:30 p.m. Saturday’s final competition begins at 1 p.m. Mira and Chuck Costa, of the folk-pop band The Sea The Sea, violinist Alasha Al-Qudwah, 2018 Poetry Out Loud champion Jordyn Marshall, and West Virginia poet laureate Marc Harshman will perform during the finals on Saturday. All sessions are free and open to the public.

Harshman will serve as a judge for the competition, along with West Virginia author and songwriter Colleen Anderson; Joel Peckham, a poet and professor of English at Marshall University; Charleston-based author Rajia Hassib; and Elizabeth Savage, poet and professor of English at Fairmont State University.  

The state champion receives $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to the national finals. The school 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 receive original works created by West Virginia artists. The winner and runner-up also will receive custom handmade trophies.

Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry Magazine, the oldest English-language monthly publication dedicated to verse. 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


Kayley Brinegar – Berkeley Springs High School
Katie Pearson – Buckhannon-Upshur High School
Natalie Eastone – Cabell Midland High School
Shannon Knowlton – Cameron High School
Virginia Groce – Capital High School
Ty Spurlock – Doddridge County High School
Emily Yates – East Hardy High School
Maggie McAllister – Fayetteville High School
Ashlyn Bell – George Washington High School
Trevor Swiger – Grafton High School
Brett Napier – Greenbrier East High School
Tia Walkup – Greenbrier West High School
Sara Money – Hampshire High School
Victoria Bannon – Huntington High School
Melia Beckford – Hurricane High School
Brianna Watson – Lewis County High School
Justin Pettry – Liberty High School
Devesh Shah – The Linsly School
Brooke Ooten – Logan High School
Ryan Horn – Magnolia High School
Emily Cales – Meadow Bridge High School
Malerie Hendrick – Midland Trail High School
Julie Bowen – Moorefield High School
Indiah Bleher – Morgantown High School
Galilea Villasenor – Nicholas County High School
Darcy Witt – Nitro High School
Ben Long – Notre Dame High School
Allyson Brothers – Oak Glen High School
Fiona Legg – Oak Hill High School
Serenity Strother – Paden City High School
Emma Smith – Parkersburg High School
Billy Bowers – Paw Paw High School
Zoë Payne – Philip Barbour High School
Kayli Mann – Pikeview High School
Natasha Askew – Richwood High School
Renee Varnell – Ripley High School
Suraya Boggs – Roane County High School
Natalie Adams – Shady Spring High School
Kayden Upton – South Charleston High School
Kayla McGary – South Harrison High School
Makenzie Hite – Spring Mills High School
Mattelyn Lamp – St. Marys High School
Katelyn Stillwagoner – Tyler Consolidated High School
Emily Pingley – Valley High School
Seth Vandevender – Webster County High School
Emily Budik – Weir High School
Alexis Cunningham – Westside High School
Kelly Williams – Wheeling Park High School
Adeline Sims – Wirt County High School
Dylan Cain – Woodrow Wilson High School
Kalli Stewart – Wyoming East High School