On Monday, February 16, 2015, students from high schools all over the state converged on Montgomery to compete in the Alabama finals of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Competition . Students, teachers, and parents arrived at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival to recite and hear poetry. These students, already winners in their own regions, gave moving renditions of poetry from well-known poets such as Langston Hughes, C.S. Lewis, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Jean Valentine. The students also performed their original poems about truth and friendship, personal identity, and tragic life experiences. It was a day filled with laughter, thoughtfulness, and tears, proving to all that Alabama students have the power to speak with voices very much worth hearing.
First place went to Nicole Louw, a senior at Holy Spirit Catholic High School in Tuscaloosa and a student of Jonathan Loper. This was Louw’s first year participating in the Poetry Out Loud competition. She will travel to Washington, D.C., all expenses paid, to represent Alabama in the National Finals. Louw’s family and friends were there to celebrate her victory. Mekiah Hall, a student from New Century Technology High School in Huntsville, came in second place. Honorable Mentions were awarded to Mina Narayanan, a senior at Auburn High School and student of Davis Thompson; Maggie Stewart, an 11th grader at Good Hope High School in Cullman and a student of Anita Richter; and Kayla Carden, a senior at Bob Jones High School in Madison and a student of Sheila Hadden.
Elizabeth Balch-Crystal of Auburn High School won the original poetry category, sponsored by the Forum. Her teacher is Davis Thompson.
Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program presented by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in partnership with state arts councils nationwide. In Alabama, the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) partners with the Alabama Alliance for Arts Education. It encourages the mastery of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic competition of high schools across the country. Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to school-wide competitions, regional competitions, the state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington.
The winner of the Alabama finals of Poetry Out Loud is awarded $200, and the student’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The second place winner receives $100, and the student’s school receives $200 for the school library. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will award a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends, with a $20,000 college scholarship for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.
For additional information about this event, please contact Diana Green, Arts in Education Program Manager at the Alabama State Council on the Arts: 334/242-4076 Ext. 241 or firstname.lastname@example.org , or Donna Russell, Executive Director, Alabama Alliance for Arts Education, 334/269-1435 or email@example.com.
(Photo of Nicole Louw by Julian)