Kiara Chatman wins local competition that emphasizes language skill and public speaking
Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and run by the California Arts Council and locally by the Arts & Culture Commission of Contra Costa County (AC5) to engage high-school students in the presentation of poetry through memorization and performance. Chatman advances to the California state finals in Sacramento on February 28 & 29. At stake are hundreds of dollars on the state competition level and thousands at the national finals of Poetry Out Loud.
The students performed their recitations in front of a large audience at the lovely Las Lomas High School Theatre in Walnut Creek. This is Contra Costa’s ninth year of Poetry Out Loud competition, and many attendees said this was the strongest group of competitors they’ve seen. The recitations were stirring, and scores were close. Among the many fine recitations, Ms. Chatman’s “Novel” by Arthur Rimbaud, Ms. Dichoso’s “On Monsieur’s Departure” by Queen Elizabeth I and Ms. Zeiger’s “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay helped secure the final outcome.
The very competitive pool of finalists included students from fifteen county high schools: Acalanes High in Lafayette, College Park High in Pleasant Hill, Deer Valley High in Antioch, El Cerrito High in El Cerrito, Independence High in Brentwood, Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek, Monte Vista High in Danville, Mt. Diablo High in Concord, Northgate High in Walnut Creek, Pittsburg High in Pittsburg, Truthtrackers Co-Op in Walnut Creek and Kennedy High, Making Waves Academy, Richmond High and Salesian College Preparatory, all in Richmond. Countywide, over 2500 students memorized a poem for the program this year.
“To learn a great poem by heart is to make a friend for life,” said John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation. “The national recitation program brings fresh energy to an ancient art form by returning it to the classrooms of America.”
The Poetry Out Loud program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry: recitation and performance. Poetry Out Loud competitions start in the classroom, then at the school, region, state, and national finals, similar to the structure of the spelling bee. The national initiative is part of an attempt to bring literary arts to students, a critical need in U.S. schools, according to a 2004 NEA report Reading at Risk that found a dramatic decline in literary reading, especially among younger readers.