March 22, 2010
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts have announced that Jasmine Lewis, a senior 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 25-27. Bluefield State College also has awarded Lewis with a $1,000 scholarship towards tuition at the school.
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 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 “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” by Walt Whitman. Her third round selection was “Walking Down Park” by Nikki Giovanni.
This year’s runner-up, Caleb Stacy, a senior at Williamson High School, Mingo County, began the contest with “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen and “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay. His third round performance, “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” by Whitman resulted in a tie with Lewis, a first for the Poetry Out Loud competition. To break the tie, the Overall Performance category score was reviewed, giving Lewis the win. Stacy will receive $100 and his school library will collect $200 for poetry books.
The state finals were held on Saturday, March 6, in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. Fourteen students from across the state participated in the competition. In addition to Lewis and Stacy, Brogan Barnitz from Wahama High School, Mason County; Thomas Boone from Cabell Midland High School, Cabell County; Jamie Hand from Pendleton County High School; Rachel Hoffpauir from Magnolia High School, Wetzel County; Katherine Isner from Summers County High School; Treasure Lanham from Doddridge County High School; Bruce McCuskey from Nitro High School, Kanawha County; Katie McGuffey from Huntington High School, Cabell County; Cortney Nettles from Richwood High School, Nicholas County; Nick Pineda from Westside High School, Wyoming County; Sydney Wilson from Cabell County Public Library; and Leah Yoho from Cameron High School, Marshall County were present to participate.
Judges for the West Virginia finals were Colleen Anderson, writer, designer, storyteller, and owner of Mother Wit Writing and Design (www.colleenanderson.com); Dr. John McKernan, former professor at Marshall University and published poet; Carolyn Garcia, 2008 West Virginia Poetry Out Loud Finalist, finalist in the National competition and sophomore majoring in English at the University of Notre Dame; and Kate Morris, speech language pathologist and active thespian in local theater productions.
West Virginia native Chris Sarandon, star of screen, theater and television, served as emcee for the state finals. He graduated magna cum laude from WVU and received his master’s degree in theater from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. 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 Rothchilds, Two Gentlemen from Verona, Nick and Nora and most recently Cyrano de Bergerac with Keven Kline and Jennifer Garner.
The writer, poet, educator and activist Nikki Giovanni was a special guest during the program. She graduated with honors from Fisk University and then attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. She published her first book of poetry, Black Feeling Black Talk, in 1968. Early in her career she was dubbed the Princess of Black Poetry and over the course of more than three decades of publishing and lecturing, she has come to be known both as a “National Treasure,” and most recently, one of Oprah Winfrey’s 25 “Living Legends.”
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 Stacy Kepple, Poetry Out Loud Coordinator, at (304)558-0240 ext. 721, or e-mail her at Stacy.L.Kepple@wv.gov.
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 Culture Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Culture 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.
MEDIA NOTE: Photographs of the 2010 state final are available at this link.