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 15, in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The state final competition round is free and the public is encouraged to come support the student contestants.
Students from Brooke High School, Brooke County; Cabell County Public Library; Capital High School, Kanawha County; Doddridge County High School; George Washington High School, Kanawha County; Hannan High School, Mason County; Liberty High School, Raleigh County; Notre Dame High School, Harrison County; Pendleton County High School; Richwood High School, Nicholas County; Roane County High School; Sissonville High School, Kanawha County; Spring Valley High School, Wayne County; Summers County High School; Valley High School, Fayette County; and Wahama High School, Mason 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 27-29.
Additional 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. All of the students competing in the finals will receive a Poetry Out Loud t-shirt, tote bag, a book of poetry and tickets to the Charleston Ballet’s March 24 evening performance.
Judges for the West Virginia finals are William F. DeVault, poet, Jamie Dunbar, performance professional and Dr. John McKernan, poet, author and teacher. Christened the “Romantic Poet of the Internet” in 1996 by Yahoo, DeVault has been at the forefront of the digital renaissance: publishing, blogging and podcasting his work to the entire world by way of his “City of Legends” website. A graduate of Morgantown High School, the award-winning poet and author was featured in the Appalachian Education Initiative’s “Art and Soul” as one of 50 notable creative artists from West Virginia. Dunbar of Charleston is a founding member of West Virginia’s premiere improvisational comedy troupe, No Pants Players. She is an actor who has performed with Kanawha Players, Charleston Stage Company and the Charleston Light Opera Guild and has taught theater across the state. McKernan of Huntington is an English professor of 40 years at Marshall University. He has written five poetry collections including Resurrection of the Dust, and his work has been recognized by grants from the Benedum Foundation, the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
West Virginia’s Poet Laureate, Irene McKinney of Belington, will be the guest speaker and Beckley native Chris Sarandon will serve as emcee for the event. McKinney received her bachelor’s degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College where she continues to teach and her master’s degree from West Virginia University (WVU). She is the author of five books of poetry and also offers her expertise as an editor. 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.
In addition, Maryrose Flanigan, national initiative programs manager for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), will be on hand to make remarks to the students and audience. She manages literary initiatives for the NEA, currently focused on the Poetry Out Loud program. Flanigan’s poems have appeared in Potomac Review and Kennesaw Review.
A reception with live music by the Charleston-based band, Voo Doo Katz, will follow the program.
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, ext. 145.
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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