The West Virginia Division of Culture and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts have announced that Jasmine Lewis, a junior at Spring Valley High School in Huntington, Wayne County, is the state winner of the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. Lewis won $200 plus an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the national finals on April 26-28.
In addition, Lewis took home a trophy created for the Poetry Out Loud competition by Charleston artists, Chris Dutch and Robin Hammer. Her school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books and a traveling trophy, also created by Dutch and Hammer, to display for one year.
Lewis chose to recite “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes and “War is Kind” by Stephen Crane for the first two rounds of competition and clinched the win with her performance of Gwendolyn Brooks’ “the mother.”
Jessica Jenkins, a student at Greenbrier East High School in Lewisburg, Greenbrier County, is the second-place winner. She will receive $100 and her school library will collect $200 for poetry books.
The state finals were held on Saturday, March 7, in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater at the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. Twelve students from across the state participated in the competition. In addition to Lewis and Jenkins, Elizabeth Burdette from Nitro High School, Kanawha County; Maria Duffelmeyer from Doddridge County High School; Erica Fitzpatrick from Williamson High School, Mingo County; Josh Hanna from Richwood High School, Nicholas County; Maria Keathley from Wahama High School, Mason County; Stephanie Mitchell from Roane County High School; Tony Petrarca from Summers County High School; Kate Sniadowski from Woodrow Wilson High School, Raleigh County; Joseph Ta from Capital High School, Kanawha County; and Leah Yoho from Cameron High School, Marshall County were present to participate.
Judges for the West Virginia finals were Jean Anaporte, author of The Crazy Dog Dance and professor of English at West Virginia State University; Mark Defoe, author of nine books and professor emeritus of English at West Virginia Wesleyan College; and Carolyn Rose Garcia, winner of the 2008 West Virginia Poetry Out Loud competition, finalist in the National competition and freshman majoring in English at the University of Notre Dame.
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 Recitation Contest, contact Jeff Pierson, director of the arts section for the Division, at (304) 558-0240, ext. 717.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Cultural Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Cultural Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
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MEDIA NOTE: A photo gallery with pictures of some of the 2009 Poetry Out Loud contestants and the trophy created by Charleston artists Chris Dutch and Robin Hammer is available on our Web site using this link http://www.wvculture.org/arts/pol/2009gallery.html