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Poetry Contest Offers Something to Shout About
High school students from around the state will participate in the finals of the Poetry Out Loud competition Feb. 28 at Oklahoma City University for a chance to earn a trip to the national finals. Poetry Out Loud is organized by the Oklahoma Humanities Council as a way to encourage high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance and competition. According to the organization, the impetus for the program grew out of concern that Americans are reading less than in prior generations. In addition to studying famous poets, the council says the competitions help students master public speaking skills and build self-confidence. “Poetry represents one of the earliest artistic impulses of humankind and was at first a strictly oral tradition,” said Jennifer Kidney, Oklahoma coordinator for Poetry Out Loud. “Today, rappers, hip-hop artists, and poetry slam participants carry on that tradition. Participating in Poetry Out Loud helps students connect with a rich literary heritage.” Under the competition format, students begin at the classroom level and then advance to regional and state finals competitions. The state winner is awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Finals and a stipend for their school to purchase poetry books. A total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends will be awarded to winners at the National Finals in April. Harbour Winn, English professor at OCU and director of the Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film and Literature, said the competition is a great way for high school students to gain cultural backgrounds in an entertaining way. “It can be difficult to get high school students excited about learning poetry. Poetry Out Loud, however, makes the learning process more entertaining while instilling in them some skills they can carry into college and their careers,” Winn said. OCU hosts the regional and state finals each year. Winn said the public is welcome to attend and root for the competitors. “We’re riding a high note right now — our state winner last year placed in the top 12 at the national finals,” he said. “We would love to see something like that happen again this year.” Poetry Out Loud curriculum materials are free for participating schools and include standards-based teachers’ guides, anthologies, audio CDs of poetry read by well-known actors and writers. The state finals are sponsored by the Fine Arts Institute and the Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film and Literature. The rounds are held in the Kerr McGhee Auditorium of OCU’s Meinders School of Business from 1- 3 p.m. Feb 28. For more information about the Poetry Out Loud program go to www.poetryoutloud.org.