The West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts will host the West Virginia state semifinal and final rounds of the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. March 8 and at 1 p.m. on March 9 in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater of the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. Both days of the contest are free and open to the public.
Thirty students from high schools in 23 counties will compete in the semifinals on Friday, with the top 10 contestants returning on Saturday for the state final.
The state champion will receive $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national finals on April 28-30. West Virginia artists Chris Dutch and Robin Hammer, both of Charleston, created an artistic trophy for the winning student and a traveling trophy, which will go to the winning student's school for a year.
Other awards include a $500 stipend to the winner's school for the purchase of poetry books, $100 to the runner-up, and $200 to that student's school library.
Trent Danowski, a former Nitro High School teacher and long-time participant of the program, will serve as emcee for the semifinal rounds on Friday. He has been involved in Poetry Out Loud since 2009, and last year, he worked with Bruce McCuskey, the 2012 West Virginia State Poetry Out Loud Champion who went on to place in the top 24 at the national competition last May.
Charleston poet Crystal Good will make a special appearance during Friday's semifinal rounds. Good's first chapbook of poetry, "Valley Girl," explores themes in quantum physics, Appalachian culture, gender equality and mountaintop removal.
The Division welcomes back acclaimed actor and West Virginia native Chris Sarandon, returning for his sixth year, as emcee for the final contest at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Sarandon, star of screen, theater and television, graduated magna cum laude from West Virginia University and received his master's degree in theater from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The Saturday program will feature two special guest performances. West Virginia's poet laureate, Marc Harshman, will address the audience and serve as a judge for the finals. In addition, renowned guitarist Charlie Hunter and jazz drummer Scott Amendola will perform.
Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation,
publisher of "Poetry Magazine," the oldest English-language monthly publication dedicated to verse.
The program is designed to encourage high school-age students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition.
For information, contact Cicely Bosley, Arts in Education Coordinator for the Division, at 304-558-0240.