Oklahoma City, OK-The Oklahoma Humanities Council announced a statewide expansion of the Poetry Out Loud program, a national recitation competition sponsored in cooperation with the Oklahoma Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation.
Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The impetus for the program grew out of concern that Americans are reading less than in prior generations.
The state contest began in 2006 as a pilot program in the Oklahoma City metro area. In 2007, the program expanded to include Tulsa and Northeast Oklahoma. This year's competition is open to all high school students statewide.
"Reciting poetry may seem to be an old-fashioned idea," said Dr. Jennifer Kidney, Oklahoma coordinator for Poetry Out Loud, "but it's actually both timeless and contemporary. Reciting poetry was an Olympic event in ancient Greece. Today, hip-hop music and poetry slams carry on that tradition. To recite poems from memory and convey their meaning to an audience, students truly learn poems, inside and out, and connect with their literary heritage."
In addition to studying great poets, competitions help students master public speaking skills and build self-confidence. Students begin at the classroom level and then advance to regional and state finals competitions. The state winner is awarded an all-expense-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 2008.
Poetry Out Loud curriculum materials are free for participating schools and include standards-based teachers' guides, anthologies, promotional guides, audio CDs of poetry read by well-known actors and writers such as Oklahoma Centennial State Poet Laureate N. Scott Momaday, and a comprehensive website.
Eleven regional finals will be held across the state on February 2, 2008. The state finals competition will be at Oklahoma City University, March 1, 2008. N. Scott Momaday will attend the state finals and give a short reading of his work.