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Raising Arizona Kids

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Ready, set, recite…

Travis Marino, a regional finalist in Arizona "Poetry Out Loud" 2103. Photo courtesy of Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Today’s youth experience plenty of competition. Reality shows hype competition between singers, chefs and fashion designers. Schools fuel competition between students. Peers heighten competition between cliques. And parents foster competition between siblings.

It’ll be ready, set, recite for Arizona teens competing this month in state finals for this year’s Poetry Out Loud, a national recitation contest for students in grades 9-12.

Winners from three regional competitons taking place this weekend will advance to the Arizona final, being held March 20 at Eight, Arizona PBS on ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Arizona Poetry Out Loud is a program of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. The competition is designed to help students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.

Organizers note that Poetry Out Loud seeks to “foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry – recitation and performance.”

The program “builds on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of rap music among youth.”

Poetry Out Loud “invites the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into the English class.”

I discovered while attending one of last year’s regional competitions that watching students read poetry is suprisingly entertaining. Students well versed in recitation bring all sorts of movement, inflection and interpretation to the work.

Adriana Hurtado, a regional finalist in Arizona "Poetry Out Loud" 2013. Photo courtesy of Arizona Commission on the Arts.

It’s fascinating to see which poems various student have chosen, and how students differ in presenting them.

Students select works from a national Poetry Out Loud anthology containing more than 650 works. State and national finalists must prepare three poems for competition, including one that’s 25 or fewer lines long and one written before the 20th century.

The Arizona winner will receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, DC, to compete in the national finals taking place during National Poetry Month in April. The winner’s school gets a $500 stipend for purchasing poetry books.

Several poetry-related events take place in Arizona during National Poetry Month, including an “American Voices” dance performance featuring Center Dance Ensemble and guest artists.

Poetry Out Loud state finalists are invited to participate, according to Frances Smith Cohen, artistic director for CDE. “American Voices” takes place April 3, 4 and 7 at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.

The popularity of CDE’s “American Voices” inspired the company to create a pair of Poetry ‘N Motion programs, one for K-3 students and another for students in grades 4-6. Poetry ‘N Motion school presentations include mini-ballets based on works by Dr. Seuss.

Additional poetry resources for Arizona families include the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson, which presents family days, youth book clubs and special Poetry Joeys programming for youth.

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