>High school students invited to compete in national poetry recitation contest

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History has extended the deadline for registration for Poetry Out Loud until Dec. 31, 2011. This annual poetry recitation contest is coordinated by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation in partnership with the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Poetry Out Loud is a program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

Schools are invited to participate in classroom and school-wide contests, advancing to a state competition on March 2 and 3, 2012. State champions will advance to the National Finals, to take place on May 14-15, 2012, in Washington, D.C.

Anthony Braxton, from South Charleston High School was selected as the 2011 West Virginia Poetry Out Loud champion and represented the state in the 2011 National Finals last April. Nationally, more than 365,000 students from 2,255 high schools took part in the 2010–2011 Poetry Out Loud program. In 2011, 3,184 students from 26 West Virginia schools participated in the program.

Poetry Out Loud seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry – recitation and performance. The program builds on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of rap music among youth. Poetry Out Loud invites the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into the English classroom. Through Poetry Out Loud, students can master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

“Poetry Out Loud connects young people with great works of poetry, as the beginning of a lifelong relationship,” said Rocco Landesman, chairman of the NEA. “Our state arts agencies, schools, and arts organizations work to support the dedicated teachers who inspire their students to begin that journey. A poem can be a powerful force in bringing together a community.”

The NEA and the Poetry Foundation have partnered to provide administrative grants and awards to state arts agencies, and will coordinate the National Finals next May. With this support, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History targets high schools in every county in West Virginia.

Additionally, the NEA and the Poetry Foundation provide state arts agencies with free, standards-based curriculum materials for use by participating schools. These materials include print and online poetry anthologies, a Teacher’s Guide with sample lesson plans to help instructors teach recitation and performance, a Learning Recitation DVD, and an audio CD featuring well-known actors and writers such as James Earl Jones, Anthony Hopkins, and Rita Dove. Program materials are available for download on the website,, which offers additional resources.

How to get involved in Poetry Out Loud

High school teachers who are interested in participating in Poetry Out Loud should know that the program takes one to three weeks of classroom time, and may be incorporated with existing poetry units. High schools that wish to be part of the official Poetry Out Loud program must contact the West Virginia Division of Culture and History to participate. The Division will determine which schools are eligible to take part in the official Poetry Out Loud program. Schools that are not in the official program may conduct their own contests using the online resources.

Many opportunities are available for participation in this program. To volunteer, for more information, or to register, contact Cicely Bosley, arts in education coordinator for the Division, at (304) 558-0240,, or visit for more information.

Poetry Out Loud awards

Students who participate in the official Poetry Out Loud program may be eligible to compete in the state and National Finals in 2012. Each state champion will receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete for the national championship. The state champion’s school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up in each state will receive $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.

For further information on Poetry Out Loud, visit

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 The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.