West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History

St. Marys High School Student to Represent West Virginia in Poetry Out Loud National Finals

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – St. Marys High School student Willow Peyton will represent West Virginia in the 2024 Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington, D.C., on May 1-2.

Peyton won the state competition hosted by the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History (WVDACH) and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts on Saturday, March 9, at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex, in Charleston. John Spellman of Morgantown High School was named the state runner-up.

Peyton recited “A Song: Lying is an occupation” by Laetitia Pilkington, “How to Triumph Like a Girl” by Ada Limon, and “The Poem You’ve Been Waiting For” by Tarfia Faizullah.

Spellman’s poems included “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats, “The Light the Dead See” by Frank Stanford, and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Forty-four students from high schools in 28 counties competed in the semifinals on Friday, March 8, 2024, with the top 10 contestants competing Saturday in the state final. A complete list of semifinalists and their schools is attached. Top 10 finalists and Top 5 finalists are also noted.

Peyton will receive $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national finals. St. Marys High School will receive $500 for the purchase of poetry books and materials. The school’s Poetry Out Loud coordinator is Paige Cook.

As the runner-up, Spellman will receive $100, and his school will receive $200 to purchase poetry materials. Morgantown High School’s Poetry Out Loud coordinator is Jessica Robertson.

Both students received trophies created by West Virginia artist Matt Thomas of Gilmer County.

Poetry Out Loud is a poetry recitation contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 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 students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

Beginning at the classroom level, more than 4,000 students and 167 teachers at 50 West Virginia high schools participated in the Poetry Out Loud program this year.

For more information about Poetry Out Loud and the state final competition, contact program coordinator Jim Wolfe at (304) 558-0240 or james.d.wolfe@wv.gov.

MEDIA NOTE: Photographs courtesy of Stephen Brightwell, West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History

Poetry Out Loud Champion Willow Peyton, St. Marys High School:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jjYPr7Unz5ImxY1vpKlBmHN2M3jROHTa/view?usp=drive_link


Poetry Out Loud Runner up John Spellman, Morgantown High School:



*Additional photos of the event and competitors will be available at a later date at https://wvculture.zenfolio.com/. For any specific photographs, contact Andrea.E.Nelson@wv.gov.


Berkeley Springs High School – Hunter Hook (Top 10)

Bridgeport High School – Jay Scott (Top 5)

Buckhannon-Upshur High School – Jordan James

Capital High School – Isaiah Canterbury (Top 5)

Clay-Battelle High School – Whitley Hardin

East Hardy High School – Kaelynn Reigel

Fairmont Senior High School – Riley Moore

George Washington High School – Clay Dusenbury

Gilmer County High School – Alena Gray

Grafton High School – Alexa Swyck (Top 10)

Greenbrier East High School – Christian Montgomery (Top 10)

Hurricane High School – Sarah Peyton

Lewis County High School – Aylah Johnson

Lincoln High School – Myah Riley

Logan High School – Emily Porter

Magnolia High School – Vanessa Cogar

Meadow Bridge High School – Erin Fox

Moorefield High School – Anna Bowen

Morgantown High School – John Spellman (Runner-up)

Nicholas County High School – Emily Sparks

Nitro High School – Layken Gunnoe

Notre Dame High School – Audrey Kosydar

Oak Glen High School – Ella Dennis

Oak Hill High School – Jordyn Floyd (Top 10)

Parkersburg High School – Emma Withrow

Paw Paw High School – Kiel Gee

Philip Barbour High School – Tara Leigh Rice (Top 5)

PikeView High School – Kinsley McCormick

Pocahontas County High School – Sabina Leyzorek

Richwood High School – Kailyn Williams

Saint Albans High School – JozLind Lazare

Shady Spring High School – Nicholas Lilly

Sissonville High School – Bailey Dore

South Charleston High School – Meagan Marquez

Spring Mills High School – Julia Stedman

St. Marys High School – Willow Peyton (State Champion)

Tucker County High School – Zane Paul

Tyler Consolidated High School – Ralynn Heintzman

Weir High School – Sienna Finsley

Westside High School – Riley Lester

Wheeling Park High School – Ava Mick

Winfield High School – Braylie Smolder

Woodrow Wilson High School – Carson Misch (Top 10)

Wyoming East High School – Piper Cook

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