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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “Poetry needs to be heard.  Often the best way to understand the messages and rhythms of a poem is to memorize it and recite it,” said West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman. “Poetry Out Loud brings that opportunity to young people and helps them realize that poetry has a place in our lives.”

The 2016 West Virginia Poetry Out Loud state finals competition will be March 4 and 5, 2016 at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The deadline for public and private high schools and homeschool associations to sign up to participate is Dec. 1, 2015.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, sponsors the state competition. 

“Poetry Out Loud is a free program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition,” said Jim Wolfe, arts in education coordinator for the division. “Standards-based curriculum materials are available at no cost for participating public and private high schools, providing teachers with all of the information and materials they need to host competitions in their high schools.”

The program begins at the local high school level, according to Wolfe. Through Jan. 2016, schools participate in classroom and school-wide contests. The winners of those competitions advance to the state finals at the Culture Center March 4 and 5, 2016. The state champion advances to the national competition in Washington, D.C., on May 3 and 4, 2016.

Each state champion receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete for the national championship. The state champion’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up in each state receives $100, with $200 for his or her school library. Poetry Out Loud will award a total of $50,000 in cash and school stipends at the National Finals, including a $20,000 award for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

In the 2014-2015 school year, 34 West Virginia high schools held Poetry Out Loud competitions. One hundred and six teachers worked with 3,735 students at the local school level. Twenty-three finalists competed at the state event. Neely Seams of Greenbrier East High School was selected as the 2015 West Virginia Poetry Out Loud champion and represented the state in the National Finals.

Following on Harshman’s message, Wolfe said, “Participating in this dynamic recitation competition gives students an opportunity to consider classic and contemporary poems in depth; developing their own interpretations leads them to a better understanding of the poem’s message and a better understanding of themselves.”

The program materials include an online poetry anthology containing more than 900 classic and contemporary poems, a teacher’s guide, lesson plans, posters, and video and audio on the art of recitation. Program materials are available from the division, or for download from the website www.poetryoutloud.org, which offers additional resources.

To register or to learn more about the program, visit http://www.wvculture.org/arts/pol/ or contact Wolfe at [email protected] or (304) 558-0240.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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