Bruce McCuskey, a senior at Nitro High School, Kanawha County, will represent the state of West Virginia May 13-15 in the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts announced Tuesday, March 20, that McCuskey won $200 plus an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the national finals after winning the state Poetry Out Loud competition.

McCuskey chose to recite “Preludes” by T. S. Eliot, “The Last Laugh” by Wilfred Owen and “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

This year’s runner-up, Dayja Legg, a junior at Capital High School, recited “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou, “A Birthday” by Christina Rossetti and “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. Legg will receive $100 and her school library will collect $200 for poetry books.

Two state semifinal rounds were held Friday, March 2. Twenty-one students from 21 high schools in 17 counties competed. The top 10 finalists advanced to the state finals on Saturday, March 3, in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater in the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The other students who were finalists included David Crowe from Richwood High School, Nicholas County; Sabrina Dahlia from East Fairmont High School, Marion County; Tim DiFazio from Morgantown High School, Monongalia County; Tyler Hammack from Roane County High School; Kaley Hensley from Chapmanville High School, Logan County; Sarah McCloy from Wirt County High School; Afsheen Misaghi from George Washington High School, Kanawha County; and Timberly Robinson, Lyceum Prep Academy, Ohio County. A complete list of all 21 semifinalists is attached.

Judges for the West Virginia finals were Colleen Anderson, a freelance writer, songwriter and graphic designer from Charleston who has published short fiction and poetry, and won awards in two national competitions for her essays for West Virginia Public Radio; Nikki Bowman of Morgantown, owner and editor of the critically acclaimed WV Living and WV Weddings magazines and co-owner of WV Living Marketplace, who recently launched a new magazine called Morgantown; Kate Morris of Hurricane owns a business that provides speech, language, and feeding therapy to infants and toddlers and is active in community theater, having performed with Kanawha Players, the Charleston Stage Co. and the 5th Avenue Theatre Co.; and Deborah Stiles, a native of Elkins who has published poetry, fiction and nonfiction in the United States, England and Canada, as well as two books, Riding Limestone and Movement Catalogued.

West Virginia native Chris Sarandon, star of screen, theater and television, served as emcee. He graduated magna cum laude from WVU and received his master’s degree in theater from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Originally from Beckley, Sarandon has performed in such films as Dog Day Afternoon, for which he received an Oscar nomination, The Princess Bride, Child’s Play, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Loggerheads. His Broadway appearances have included The Rothschilds, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Nick and Nora and Cyrano de Bergerac.

The Division presented Amber Tamblyn as the special guest poet and actress, who performed during the final competition March 3. Tamblyn has been a writer and actress since the age of nine. She is  recognized for her work as Joan on the CBS television program Joan of Arcadia and won a Locarno Film Festival award for best actress for her role in Stephanie Daley. Tamblyn is the author of two poetry collections, Bang, Ditto and Free Stallion. Her work has been published in New York Quarterly, Poets & Writers, Interview, and Cosmopolitan, among others. She is the executive producer of “The Drums Inside Your Chest,” an annual poetry concert that showcases outstanding contemporary poets.

Poetry Out Loud is a program 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.

For more information about the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, contact Cicely Bosley, arts in education coordinator for the Division, at (304) 558-0240 ext. 713, or e-mail her at

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.

Poetry Out Loud Semifinalists
David Crowe, Richwood High School, Nicholas County
Sabrina Dahlia, East Fairmont High School, Marion County
Tim DiFazio, Morgantown High School, Monongalia County
Tyler Hammack, Roane County High School
Megan Haynes, Huntington High School, Cabell County
Kaley Hensley, Chapmanville High School, Logan County
Clayton Irvine, Pocahontas County High School
Treasure Lanham, Doddridge County High School
Dayja Legg, Capital High School, Kanawha County
Celia Maddy, South Charleston High School, Kanawha County
Sarah McCloy, Wirt County High School
Bruce McCuskey, Nitro High School, Kanawha County
Caytlen Miller, Parkersburg High School, Wood County
Brock Mills, Cabell-Midland High School, Cabell County
Afsheen Misaghi, George Washington High School, Kanawha County
Jacob Montague, Berkeley Springs High School, Morgan County
Mackenzie Roberts, Magnolia High School, Wetzel County
Timberly Robinson, Lyceum Prep Academy, Ohio County
Brendan Rumney, Webster County High School
William Titus, Lewis County High School
Jared Workman, Spring Valley High School, Wayne County

– 30 –

MEDIA NOTE: Photographs of the 2012 state final are available at this link.