The big literary event this past weekend was the finals of the statewide Poetry Out Loud competition, held in Raleigh at the NC Museum of Art. This is the first year I haven't been able to attend, and I feel downcast that I missed what was obviously an exciting event. Each year the number of participants has grown; this year the number of high schools represented across the state was twenty-nine, well above last year's total. Mimi Herman, the coordinator of the competition (as well as being a fine poet and fiction writer) was thrilled with the turn-out. Poetry recitation, as she says, is a way of falling in love with a poem and with poetry.
The press release from the NC Arts Council follows, and the poems chosen to recite by the winner, Nadia Nasir, can be found on the Poetry Out Loud website. Congratulations to all the finalists and to the top three winners. Everyone received congratulatory prizes, including books by various NC poets.
To view a video clip of the winner, use this link: http://www.ncarts.org/press_release.cfm?ID=457&menu_sel=5.
I know well from past competitions how close the results can be, so I send special congratulations to those not named as winner. Having been a judge for two years, I can tell you it's not an easy job to assign numbers to a student's presentation of a poem. If you have not graduated next year, try again. After all, last year Sarah Tramper of Cherokee, who dazzled us with her presentations and was declared runner-up by a very slim margin, was a "repeat." She would tell you "Don't Give Up." And don't give up on reading and reciting poetry!
(Sarah Tramper performs her winning recitations at Southwestern Community College. She was also invited to perform at WCU's Literary Festival and Asheville Wordfest. So, being a runner-up has its rewards!)
You may go to poetryoutloud.org to find more about more the competition and the poetry available for recitation. Astonishingly enough, our resident genius and former Poet Laureate Fred Chappell is not included on the list. A message to the national Poetry Out Loud committtee: Add Fred Chappell and while you are at it, add more NC poets to your list! Our state is, after all, the State of Poetry. Any doubts about that? Go to our ncarts.org Writers & Books and our ncpoetlaureate blog.
Orange County student Nadia Nasir of Cedar Ridge High School of Hillsborough nailed the Poetry Out Loud competition Saturday with her performances of "Snow Day" by Billy Collins; "Blackberrying" by Sylvia Plath; and "O Captain! My Captain!"by Walt Whitman.
Nasir, the first place winner, will be on her way this spring to Washington for the national finals.
"She's fabulous. She's mature. There is a sense of humor lurking just behind her sophistication," says Mimi Herman, the North Carolina Poetry Out Loud coordinator.
"There was tremendous excitement and lots of nerves," says Herman about the competition that pitted 29 state high school students against each other in poetry recitation. "They made us laugh. They made us cry but most of all they amazed us."
The second place winner was Courtney Harms of Pinecrest High School in Moore County and the third place winner was Symone Stukes of Independence High School in Mecklenburg County.
Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud is a national initiative to encourage high school students to memorize and recite poetry while mastering public speaking skills, building self-confidence and learning about their literary heritage.
The semifinals and the final competition were Feb. 28 at the North Carolina Museum of History in the auditorium. Students from private and public schools as far away as Buncombe and Dare County participated in the competition. For the first time, home schooled children participated as well.
Students first participate at the school level. Winners from the schools advance to the state level competition. Winners at the state level receive $200 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the national championship. State winners' schools also receive a $500 stipend to be used for purchasing poetry books. The runners-up at the state level receive $100, with their school receiving a $200 stipend for buying poetry books.
The NEA plans to award more than $50,000 in scholarships and stipends at the national finals for winners and their schools. The 2009 National Finals will be held April 28 in Washington, D.C.
Contact Bridgette A. Lacy at (919) 807-6520.
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