Morgan County students compete at state Poetry Out Loud competition

by Kate Evans
Berkeley Springs High School sophomore Lydia Jenkinson and Paw Paw High School sophomore Billy Bowers competed against upperclassmen and gave impressive performances at the West Virginia Poetry Out Loud semi-finals that were held at the Culture Center at the State Capitol Complex in Charleston on Friday, March 9.
Forty students from high schools in 26 counties competed in the semifinals on Friday, with the top 10 contestants competing Saturday in the state final.
Rachel Hopkins, Berkeley Springs High School Poetry Out Loud Coordinator and English teacher, said both Jenkinson and Bowers did an awesome job and made it through the Round A and Round B, but were eliminated after Round B, Hopkins said.  Judges said the top 10 performances were a very tough decision.
Jenkinson performed “Memory As a Hearing Aid” by Tony Hoagland, “And If I Did, What Then?” by George Gascoigne and  “Dead Butterfly” by Ellen Bass.
Bowers performed “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost, “Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” by William Shakespeare and “Battle-Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe.
Judges impressed
Hopkins said that judges were very impressed with both students’ performances and the teens were invited back to next year’s competition.  The two sophomores, who won their school Poetry Out Loud competitions, competed against mostly seniors.  Hopkins accompanied   Jenkinson to the competition.
Hopkins said the Poetry Out Loud competition is a great confidence-booster and helps build students’ public speaking skills.  Kids are on stage reciting poetry and channeling a poet in front of hundreds of people, she noted.
It’s the third year that Berkeley Springs High School had someone compete in the West Virginia Poetry Out Loud contest and the first year for Paw Paw Schools, Hopkins said.
“We are proud of Billy Bowers for the creativity and hard work he put into his performance,” said   Paw Paw High School Assistant Principal Amber Guthrie, Paw Paw Schools Poetry Out Loud coordinator.  Guthrie and Paw Paw High School English teacher Alex Arthur, who also helped with the program, accompanied Bowers to the state competition.
State champion
Capital High School student Jordyn Marshall will represent West Virginia at the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest in Washington, D.C. on April 24-25. Marshall won the March 10 state finals that were hosted by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission of the Arts. Abbey Delk of Wheeling Park High School was the runner-up, according to a Division of Culture and History press release.
Marshall recited “I Sit and Sew” by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, “Hip-Hop Ghazal” by Patricia Smith and “On Monsieur’s Departure” by Queen Elizabeth I.  Delk’s poems included [‘Often rebuked, yet always back returning’] by Emily Bronte, “Enough” by Suzanne Buffam and “The Hospital Window” by James L. Dickey.
As winner, Marshall received $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the national finals. His high school received a $500 stipend to buy poetry books and materials.      As runner-up, Delk received $100 and $200 for her school to purchase poetry books and materials.
Jim Wolfe, Division of Culture and History arts education coordinator, said that all students and teachers received original works created by West Virginia artists: handmade ThomasWork Journals with hardwood covers made by Matt Thomas of Gilmer County; letterpress posters by Emily Sokolosky of Base Camp Printing in Charleston; and Whipstitches, a collection of poems by Randi Ward of Wood County.
Poetry Out Loud is a poetry recitation contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 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 students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition.