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Poetry Out Loud State Finals to be held February 26 in Warwick

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and VSA arts of Rhode Island will hold the state finals for Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest on Saturday, February 26, 2011, 1 p.m. at Bishop Hendricken High School, Warwick. Students from ten local high schools will participate in the Poetry Out Loud state finals, reciting poems from memory. Amber Johnson, Rhode Island State Champion for two years and 2010’s Poetry Out Loud National Champion, will open the competition with remarks and a recitation. The event is free and open to the public.

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, D.C. More than 150,000 students across the country are expected to take part in Poetry Out Loud this year - more than 1,200 of them from Rhode Island.

Since being named Poetry Out Loud’s National Champion in April of 2010, Amber Johnson of Classical High School in Providence has had a year of experiences she never could have predicted. Winning the national high school poetry recitation contest, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, gave Amber the opportunity to travel the country inspiring students to delve into the wondrous, mind-expanding world of poetry – while having gaining some inspiration of her own. “I recorded a poetry CD in New York City with James Earl Jones and Meryl Streep – I was right there in the room with them.” But there was more to her year than hobnobbing with celebrities. “The Attorney General asked me to be on the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women, making me the youngest person serving on any federal advisory committee.” During a visit to the Margaret Walker Research Center at Jackson State University, Amber found herself reciting the famous poet’s work for her sons, friends and university colleagues. A major publisher has even given her the opportunity to craft a book of poetry aimed at teens. But perhaps most meaningful was the chance to give fellow teenagers some of her perspective on why it’s important to read and recite poetry as the Poetry Out Loud program promotes. “Typically during the adolescent years, we think no one understands us. But if you look, you can find a poem that articulates what you are feeling.”

At the Rhode Island State Final, contestants will recite works they selected from an anthology of more than 500 classic and contemporary poems. Participating schools include Shea High School and the J. M. Walsh School for the Arts in Pawtucket Central High School and Classical High School in Providence, Portsmouth Abbey High School, Central Falls High School, Coventry High School, Bishop Hendricken High School, North Smithfield Senior High School, and West Warwick High School. The judges of the competition will be Lisa Starr, Rhode Island’s Poet Laureate; Mary-Kim Arnold, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, and Len Cabral, local master storyteller and author.

“Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is excited about Poetry Out Loud as one of the ways that we provide access to the arts for our high school age citizens,” says Sherilyn Brown, Director of the State Council’s Education Program. “Each year students impress us with their heartfelt and moving interpretations of a wide variety of poems. And we are so very proud that last year our very own Amber went on to become National Champion after two years as Rhode Island’s Champion.”

"We want students to know that poetry belongs to everyone," says Jeannine Chartier, Director of VSA arts of RI. "Poetry out Loud is an inclusive program that welcomes all kids - with and without disabilities - from throughout our state to communicate and share with all Rhode Islanders the power of poetry. Through the school project and public performances we hope to shine a light on our successful students and their talents."

Poetry Out Loud Prizes

The winner of the Poetry Out Loud Rhode Island finals will receive $200, and the winner’s school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The second place finalist will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school library. The state champion of the Poetry Out Loud Rhode Island final will receive an all-expenses-paid trip (with a chaperone) to compete in the National Finals in Washington, DC, on April 28 & 29, 2011. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will award a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends, with a $20,000 college scholarship for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

Rhode Island Poetry Out Loud finals

The Poetry Out Loud Rhode Island finals will take place on Saturday, February 26 at 1:00 p.m. in Bishop Hendricken High School’s theater. The master of ceremonies will be Randall Rosenbaum of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. The event is free and open to the public. For more information on the state finals, contact VSA arts of RI at 725-0247 or visit

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The NEA is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts – both new and established – bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.

About the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine and one of the largest literary organizations in the world, exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit

About Rhode Island State Council on the Arts

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is a state agency supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders.

About VSA arts of Rhode Island

VSA arts of Rhode Island is a non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to enriching the lives of people with disabilities through active participation in the arts. Since 1986 VSA arts of RI has provided high quality visual, literary and performing arts programs through which children and adults with disabilities of all ethnic, racial and economic levels enter the mainstream of the cultural community. VSA arts of RI is the only agency in RI which exists solely for the purpose of providing opportunities in the arts by, with and for individuals with disabilities and serves over 40,000 Rhode Islanders each year.

Related links

  • Department or agency: Rhode Island State Council on the Arts
  • Online:
  • Release date: 02-15-2011

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