California Arts Council

State of California

Meet the California Poetry Out Loud students
County Winners Ready for State Finals on Friday, March 14

Published: 03-07-2008

Twenty California students are preparing for Poetry Out Loud, the high-school competition that doesn't involve athletics but words. It's the state finals, and the day's champion will be California's Poetry Out Loud representative in Washington, DC in April 2008. They will face off--or "speak off," as the case may be--at the Secretary of State's auditorium in downtown Sacramento on Friday, March 14.

This year marks the third time the California Arts Council has produced the Poetry Out Loud competition, a contest that encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. Each student has already won the hard-earned battle on the county level. Poetry Out Loud is structured like the spelling bee, with classroom winners, then school winners, to the district, region, county, state and then national. The competition will start at 11 am at 1020 "O" Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. Members of the public are invited to attend.

More Poetry Out Loud Students in California Than Any Other State

The energy of California Poetry Out Loud has been increasing exponentially throughout the state as high school students, teachers, poets, and parents are becoming passionate about the spoken word and about their own literary heritage. With 147 schools statewide partaking in the program, California has the highest number of schools participating in Poetry Out Loud of all the states. California also has the greatest increase in number of schools over a year's time, with 87 new participating schools in 2007-08.

The Judging

The judges for California's state finals are Al Young, California Poet Laureate; Stephen Young, Program Director for the Poetry Foundation; Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, Vice Chair of the California Arts Council; Cathy Barber, Board President of California Poets in the Schools; and J. Andrea Porras, Co-Founder of Movimiento Molcajete. Honored guests include Bernard Boudreaux, Group Manager of Community Relations for Target Corporation (a sponsor of the event); and Leslie Liberato, National Initiatives Programs Manager for the National Endowment for the Arts.

The judges will evaluate the competing students on the following criteria (abbreviated for the web):

Physical Presence--the physical nature of the recitation, including contestant's posture, use of eye contact and body language

Voice and Articulation--consideration of the student's volume, speed, use of voice inflection, and proper pronunciation. (Contestants will use a microphone at the California state finals)

Appropriateness of Dramatization--above all, recitation is about conveying a poem's sense with one's voice. It is not a theatrical enactment. Subtle dramatization must enhance the audience's understanding of the poem, but never overshadow the poem's language.

Level of Difficulty--there are several factors examined when determining the level of difficulty of a poem that include: difficult content that conveys complex and sophisticated ideas; difficult language with complex diction, syntax, meter and rhyme schemes; and poem length.

Evidence of Understanding--the judges evaluate whether the student exhibits an understanding of the poem through the recitation.

Overall Performance--overall success of the recitation based on all other criteria and other factors.

Accuracy--a separate judge will note any missed or incorrect words in the recitation, with small deductions for each, or if students rely on a prompter during the recitation.

Students Give Meaning to the Words in Poetry Out Loud, and Vice Versa

The excitement for poetry has been building for years with a recent resurgence of poetry as an oral art form seen in the slam poetry movement and the popularity of hip-hop music. Poetry Out Loud builds on this momentum by inviting the dynamic aspects of poetry, spoken word and theater in to California classrooms.

"I remember sitting in your position last year being incredibly nervous because I did not know what the judges were looking for," said the 2007 state champion Karen Hong in a letter to this year's Sonoma County competitors. Karen added that she was also intimidated by the other students who had more acting experience than she did. In hindsight she now realizes that she had the ability to compete in Poetry Out Loud even without theater experience.

"That is the beauty of Poetry Out Loud: it is not about how much performing experience you have (although I see how that can definitely help), it is about normal people being affected by art," she said. "It is about normal people discovering the beauty of words and the wisdom that comes with it."

2008 California Poetry Out Loud State-Level Competitors

Each county had one first-place winner and one runner-up--and the California Arts Council has captured their images in a 2008 California Poetry Out Loud poster that will be distributed to the students and a web version available on the California Arts Council website. We at the California Arts Council give our heartfelt gratitude and recognition to all the students who worked and enjoyed the words they learned and shared with audiences from Humboldt to San Diego. Please see the county winners, listed by county below.

Alameda County
Kathy Tran, Oakland Military Institute College Preparatory Academy, Oakland

Contra Costa County
Cecily Stevens, Salesian High School, Richmond

Fresno County
Boundrod Xiong, Roosevelt High School, Fresno

Humboldt County
Jessica Knapp, North Coast Preparatory and Performing Arts Academy, Arcata

Lake County
Rachael Weiss, Intermountain High School, Cobb

Los Angeles County
Annie Griffin, St. Monica Academy, Pasadena

Madera County
Amanda Valdez, Madera South High School, Madera

Marin County
Malachia Hoover, Tamalpais High School, Mill Valley

Mendocino County
Lilly Deerwater, Mendocino Community High School, Mendocino

Monterey County
Carolina Silva, North Salinas High School, Salinas

Nevada County
Forest Neff, Bear River High School, Grass Valley

Placer County
Roshawnda Bettencourt, Oakmont High School, Roseville

Sacramento County
Daniel Horne, Elk Grove High School, Elk Grove

San Diego County
Jason Klingerman, Valley Center High School, Valley Center

San Luis Obispo County
Anne Gentilucci, Mission College Preparatory High School, San Luis Obispo

Santa Barbara County
Spencer Klavan, Laguna Blanca School, Santa Barbara

Siskiyou County
Matthew J. Bryan, Golden Eagle Charter School, Mt. Shasta

Sonoma County
Grace Erny, Sonoma Academy, Santa Rosa

Tuolumne County
Maija Swanson, Sonora High School, La Habra

Ventura County
Eric Goodman, Ventura High School, Ventura

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