Poetry Out Loud

Published on March 06, 2013

Poetry Out Loud

In the spring of 2012, Diana Green, Arts in Education Program Manager of the Alabama State Council on the Arts and Donna Russell, Executive Director of the Alabama Alliance for Arts Education, approached the Auburn English Department in search of an intern to act as region coordinator for the program for the coming year. The department gave the job to Michelle Hopf, a student in the MA program, and together with ASCA and the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities, sponsored the program.

The region, including Lee County and twenty two others, tripled in participation in this year’s competition. Participating schools included Loachapoka High, Auburn High, Stanhope Elmore High (Millbrook), Loveless Academic Magnet Program High (Montgomery), Trinity Presbyterian School (Montgomery, Booker T. Washington High School (Mongomery), and Keith High School (Orrville). This means that for region two, about 1500 students participated at the classroom level, which involved about twenty teachers. Statewide, more 6,400 students participated, which means than 90 teachers across the state used the program to bring poetry to their classrooms.

Region 2 sent five students to compete at the state level in both the original recitation competition and the national competition (in which students recite from an anthology). In the original competition, Auburn High School’s Bonnie Chen placed first. She received $200 and a signed copy of Nikky Finny’s national book award-winning collection Head Off and Split. Booker T. Washington’s Ameerah Sanders won second place and received $100 and a copy of the same book. LAMP’s Jackson Hall received honorable mention in the competition as well. And as a participant they received a medallion and a plaque (all participants received these – as you saw in the ceremony). The Alabama Writers’ forum underwrites the cash prizes for Original Poetry and consults on the book selection (www.writersforum.org). The state champion in the recitation contest and the first and second place winners in the Original Poetry Competition are invited to perform their winning works in the Poetry Tent at the 7th Annual Alabama Book Festival, April 20th, in Montgomery’s Old Alabama Town. They are publicized along with the other nationally-published adult poets, including Alabama’s new Poet Laureate Andrew Glaze (Birmingham). People may check the Festival’s website in a few weeks for a complete line-up of the Poetry Tent and other Festival venues.http://www.alabamabookfestival.org

Of this year’s original competition, Jeanie Thompson remarked, “Bonnie is an incredibly interesting poet – no one else in the competition had the unique eye and ear that she does. There were some very strong young poets in this year’s competition, and we all think the Original Poetry Competition is getting better and better.”

Region 2 also performed well in the national competition. Both Jackson Hall (LAMP) and Auburn High School’s Megan Zartman made it to the top five. All of our competitors did a fantastic job at the state competition. We were very excited to see a big group of Keith High School students in the audience, taking everything in and preparing for next year. Also, we were honored to have Elaine Johnson, Alabama State Council on the Arts representative from Dothan, Alabama, join us for the competition. We are proud of our students and thankful for our teachers. We look forward to more growth as the program continues to partner with the English Department.

Special thanks goes out to community members who helped make the program happen this year, including AU Theater Professor Christopher Qualls, local writer and teacher Ashley Parsons, Jeanie Thompson of the Alabama Writers Forum, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Auburn High School, Sara Hand Custer of the Jan Dempsey Community Arts Center, the Student Writing Council, Auburn’s Poetry Club, and the English Department’s own Jeremy Downes and Tom O’Shea, as well as several more instructors, graduate students, and undergraduates who helped make the region competition and workshops happen.

Poetry Out Loud is a national program funded by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. On a national level, students participate by reciting poems from an approved online anthology, which can be found at http://www.poetryoutloud.org.