The West Virginia Division of Culture and History (WVDCH) and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts will host the West Virginia State Semifinal and Final rounds of the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest on Friday, March 4, and Saturday, March 5. The programs will take place in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. Both rounds of the competition are free and the public is encouraged to come and support the student contestants.

The growing popularity of the Poetry Out Loud contest has prompted the WVDCH to add a semifinal round on Friday, March 4 at 3 p.m. Twenty-two students from 22 high schools in 19 counties will compete, with the top ten contestants returning on Saturday for the state final. A complete list of semifinalists and their schools is attached.

Carolyn Rose Garcia, the 2008 state winner of the contest and one of 12 finalists selected from 52 champions in the national competition, will serve as emcee for the semifinal round. A native of Fairmont, Garcia is a junior at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., who has just returned from a semester abroad, studying in France.

The Division will welcome back Chris Sarandon, returning for his fourth year, as emcee for the final competition on Saturday, March 5 at 1 p.m. The Greg Howard Quartet, a jazz band based in Virginia, will perform for contestants and guests.

The state winner will receive $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national finals on April 28-29. West Virginia artists Chris Dutch and Robin Hammer, both of Charleston, created an artistic trophy for the winning student and a traveling trophy, which will go to the winning student’s school for a year. These pieces were commissioned by the Division.

Other monetary awards include a $500 stipend to the winner’s school for the purchase of poetry books, $100 to the runner-up, and $200 to that student’s school library.

Judges for the semifinal round on Friday will be Jasmine Lewis of Huntington, 2009 and 2010 state Poetry Out Loud winner; Marc Harshman of Wheeling, author; and Crystal Good of Charleston, poet. The final round will be judged by Caleb Stacy of Williamson, 2010 Poetry Out Loud runner-up; Jamie Dunbar of Charleston, performing artist; and Irene McKinney of Belington, West Virginia Poet Laureate.

Sarandon, star of screen, theater and television graduated magna cum laude from WVU and received his master’s degree in theater from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. A Beckley native, he 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 with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner.

The Greg Howard quartet is an upbeat and funky jazz band featuring John D’earth on trumpet, Darrell Rose on percussion, and James McLaughlin on drums. Its members have performed with diverse artists from Buddy Rich, Tito Puente, Bruce Hornsby, The Wailers, and Old School Freight Train to the Dave Matthews Band.

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-age students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition. John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation, says “The public recitation of great poetry is a way to honor the speaker, the poem, and the audience all at once.”

For more information about the Poetry Out Loud: National Contest and the state semifinal and final competition, contact Stacy Kepple, program coordinator for the Division, at (304) 558-0240, ext. 721.

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

Stephen Adams | Chapmanville High School | Logan County

Casie Bevins | Williamson High School | Mingo County

Anthony Braxton | South Charleston High School | Kanawha County

Caryn Cable | Richwood High School | Nicholas County

Katelyn Cottrell | Wirt County High School | Wirt County

Amaris Elliott | Ripley High School | Jackson County

Lauren Garretson | Pocahontas County High School | Pocahontas County

Megan Haynes | Huntington High School | Cabell County

Destiny Hoffman | Wahama High School | Mason County

Rachel Hoffpauir | Magnolia High School | Wetzel County

Olvia Hughes | Spring Valley High School | Wayne County

Katelyn Lake | Webster County High School | Webster County

Treasure Lanham | Doddridge County High School | Doddridge County

Felicia Legg | Roane County High School | Roane County

Bruce McCuskey | Nitro High School | Kanawha County

Nadye Menking-Hogatt | Capital High School | Kanawha County

Alexandra Miller | Summers County High School | Summers County

Afsheen Misaghi | George Washington High School | Kanawha County

Nick Pineda | Westside High School | Wyoming County

Brook Rutherford | Morgantown High School | Monongalia County

Brittany Strother | Lewis County High School | Lewis County

Leah Yoho | Cameron High School | Marshall County