FRANKFORT — Eighteen Kentucky schools will compete on Feb. 23 for the title of state champion in the Poetry Out Loud statewide competition.
Poetry Out Loud is a poetry recitation contest sponsored by the Kentucky Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. The competition starts at the classroom level. Winners advance to schoolwide competition, then to the state competition, Feb. 23 at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort. The state champion will represent Kentucky at the Poetry Out Loud national finals May 2-4 in Washington, D.C.
Storytellers, poets and stage performers from across the state will visit each of the participating schools to mentor students on how to improve their recitations.
“Poetry Out Loud continues to build in popularity each year, and we hope to continue the momentum we’ve built for it here in Kentucky,” said Lori Meadows, arts council executive director. “We also hope to add to the number of professional mentors helping students prepare their pieces. This process gives the added benefit of exposing students to professionals in the creative industry.”
Of the 18 schools, four are new to Kentucky’s Poetry Out Loud program this year. Among those schools is Betsy Layne High School.
“It’s such an honor to be one of the 19 schools,” said Patricia Hackworth, a teacher at Betsy Layne High School. “I love poetry. I think a small poem packs a punch, and sometimes kids don’t understand how accessible poetry is.”
In addition to exposing her students to poetry, Hackworth said Poetry Out Loud also engages them in public speaking.
“They need to learn to speak in front of people and students don’t do that a lot,” Hackworth said. “This is just a progression to get them ready. This will help them. It’s taking baby steps. I like how the program is set up that way.”
Participating schools are: Allen County-Scottsville High School; Betsy Layne High School*; Boyd County High School;
Butler Traditional High School; Central Hardin High School*; Conner High School*; Elizabethtown High School;
George Rogers Clark High School; Grant County High School; Graves County High School; Hart County High School; Leslie County High School; McCracken County High School; Meade County High School*; Phelps Junior and Senior High School; Pike County Central High School; West Carter High School; Western Hills High School (denotes a school new to the Poetry Out Loud program in 2016).
The winner of the state finals receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, D.C., to compete for the national championship. The state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up receives $100, with $200 going to his or her school library.
The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, fosters environments for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts. The arts council is celebrating 50 years of service in 2016.