February 16, 2010
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts will host the West Virginia State Finals of the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest at 2 p.m., on Saturday, March 6. The program will take place in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The state final competition round is free and the public is encouraged to come support the student contestants.
The Division will welcome back Chris Sarandon as emcee for the event. In addition, Nikki Giovanni, the writer, poet, educator and activist, will make a presentation as guest speaker.
Students from Cabell County Public Library ( homeschoolers); Cabell Midland High School; Cameron High School, Marshall County; Doddridge County High School; Huntington High School, Cabell County; Magnolia High School, Wetzel County; Morgantown High School, Monongalia County; Nitro High School, Kanawha County; Pendleton County High School; Pocahontas County High School; Richwood High School, Nicholas County; Spring Valley High School, Wayne County; Summers County High School; Wahama High School, Mason County; Westside High School, Wyoming County; and Williamson High School, Mingo County will compete for the first-place prize of $200 plus an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national finals on April 26-27. In addition, the Division commissioned West Virginia artists Chris Dutch and Robin Hammer, both of Charleston, to create an artistic trophy for the winning student. There also is a traveling trophy made by Dutch and Hammer last year, which will go to the winning student’s school for a year.
Other monetary awards include a $500 stipend to the winner’s school for the purchase of poetry books, $100 to the second-place winner, and $200 to that student’s school library.
Judges for the West Virginia finals are Colleen Anderson, Carolyn Rose Garcia, John McKernan and Kate Morris.
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. 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 from Verona, Nick and Nora and most recently Cyrano de Bergerac with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner.
Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tenn., and grew up in Lincoln Heights, an all-black suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. 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.
Many of Giovanni’s works have received awards. Her autobiography, Gemini, was a finalist for the National Book Award; Love Poems, Blues: For All the Changes; Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea; Acolytes, and Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat were all honored with NAACP Image Awards. In addition, her spoken word recordings have also achieved widespread recognition and honors. Her album Truth Is On Its Way, on which she reads her poetry against a background of gospel music, was a top 100 album and received the Best Spoken Word Album by the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers. The author of some 30 books for adults and children, Giovanni is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
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 and the state finals competition, contact Stacy Kepple, program coordinator for the Division, at (304) 558-0240, ex. 721.
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.