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October 2, 2013

Michigan teachers, students invited to take part in Poetry Out Loud program

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

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Michigan teachers, students invited to take part in Poetry Out Loud program
Pictured, from the left, are third runner-up Josef Field, of Bradford Academy High School in Southfield; second runner-up Cameron Snyder-Pitts, of Roosevelt High School in Wyandotte; State Champion Richard Wu, of Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids; and first runner-up Malcolm Harris, of Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

METRO DETROIT — High school students across the state are invited to participate in the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, a program offered by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

Locally, the program is run in partnership with the Michigan Humanities Council and the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs. Eric Nordberg, executive director of the Michigan Humanities Council, said Poetry Out Loud is a program that encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance and competition.

“The project really centers around high school students memorizing, and then reciting and performing, existing pieces of poetry, so it’s a process of learning a poem, very often learning about the poet who wrote it and understanding why they wrote it,” he said. “For the student, it’s a learning experience from the first degree — they learn about what it is to be a human being and how we all have shared experiences and how we express those things.”

Michigan high schools that wish to be a part of the official Poetry Out Loud program must register online by Nov. 15 to participate. All Michigan high schools are eligible to participate in the program. Once registered, participating high schools are given free teacher resources to incorporate poetry into the curriculum and are asked to host their own competitions to select a student to represent their school at the state finals March 13-14 in East Lansing. The state champion will receive a $200 award and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national championship, where one student will win a $20,000 college scholarship. The state champion’s school will receive a $500 stipend toward the purchase of poetry books.

“What we’ve heard from many students who have been engaged by this program is this is the only avenue they have for being involved in a statewide competition,” Nordberg said.

Since the program was first offered in Michigan in 2005, more than 33,000 students from 50 high schools have participated in Poetry Out Loud.

Through the program, Michigan Humanities Council spokesperson Kate Bartig said, students are able to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.

“We’ve had some students in the past who have written back to us saying that they were shy and they really grew through Poetry Out Loud. It helps with their self-confidence and also their public speaking skills, and then of course they learn about poetry and our literary heritage,” she said. “Poetry also makes you think more deeply about who you are and what you want to be in life, and I think it’s really helpful at that stage in life.”

For more information about the Michigan Poetry Out Loud program, or to register a school, visit www.michiganhumanities.org/programs/poetry.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.