Poetry Out Loud State Finals This Weekend in Helena

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High school students from around the state will gather at the Myrna Loy Center in Helena this Saturday, March 1from 9:00 a. m. to 2:00 p. m.  to compete in the Poetry Out Loud State Finals.  Twenty finalists will compete for the opportunity to become Montana State Champion, and move on to the National Finals in Washington, DC in April.

Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation contest created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation that  encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance, which helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and internalize our literary heritage. Each state sends a winner to the National Finals in Washington, DC.   Last year’s winner was Taylor Blossom from Helena High School.  Since the program began in 2006, two Montana State Champions have placed in the top ten in the National Finals, Josh Kelly from Flathead High School in 2007 and Diego Steele from Missoula Sentinel High School in 2010.

The Montana State Finals are hosted by the Montana Arts Council and guest judges include some of Montana’s finest poets:  Anne Bauer, Roger Dunsmore, Mark Gibbons, Lowell Jaeger and Randy Rieman.  There will be three rounds of competition beginning at 9:00 a. m., 10:30 a. m., and then the final round of eight beginning at 12:45 p. m.  Guest judges will recite their own poems while the final scores are being tallied, and then the Montana State Champion will be announced.

The winner receives $200 and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington DC with a parent or chaperone to compete for the national championship.  The state winner’s school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.  A runner-up in each state will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school library.  A total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends will be awarded for the winners at the National Finals.  The State Champion’s teacher also receives $1000 towards their trip to Washington DC to attend the National Finals.

An English teacher from Chrysallis School, a therapeutic boarding school in Northwest Montana, recently coached one of her students into the Poetry Out Loud State Finals.  She wrote about the experience, and the  powerful impact that participating in the poetry competition has had on her students.  Read about it here.

The Poetry Out Loud State Finals is free and open to the public.  All are welcome to attend.  For more information contact Emily Kohring at the Montana Arts Council, ekohring@mt.gov or Margaret Belisle, State Coordinator for Poetry Out Loud at marbelisle@aol.com  To learn more about Poetry Out Loud, click here.

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