Lake Wilburn, Poetry Out Loud winner
Lake Wilburn of Columbus (center) won Ohio’s ninth annual Poetry Out Loud state competition. (James Kegley/Ohio Poetry Out Loud)

Columbus Student Wins Ohio’s “Poetry Out Loud” Contest, Advances To Nationals

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Ohio’s ninth annual Poetry Out Loud state competition was held Saturday, March 8 at the Matesich Theatre at Ohio Dominican University.

Lake Wilburn, a junior at Centennial High School in Columbus, won the competition with his recitations of “Double Dutch,” by Gregory Pardlo; “When You Are Old,” by William Butler Yeats; and “They Feed They Lion,” by Philip Levine.

As the winner of the state finals, Wilburn received a $300 prize, his school gets $500 for the purchase of poetry books, and he will receive an all-expense-paid trip to compete in the Poetry Out Loud national finals in Washington, D.C., April 28-30, 2014.

More than 8,000 students from more than 50 schools around Ohio participated in Poetry Out Loud competitions this year. After classroom-level and then school-wide contests, 36 students competed in the final event.

Students performed classic and contemporary poems for a three-person panel of poetry and performance experts and were awarded points for accuracy, physical presence, voice and articulation, level of complexity and other criteria.

First runner-up Emily Flood, a senior from The Lyceum in South Euclid, received $200, in addition to $200 for her school library. Second runner-up, Dezi Lowry, a senior from Purcell Marian High School in Cincinnati, received $100 with $50 for her school library. Three other students received honorable mentions: Rachel Strahorn, a senior at Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School in Dayton; Sarah Binau, a junior at Bexley High School in Bexley; and Alison Caldwell, a senior at Stow-Munroe Falls High School in Stow.

Sharon Howard, a communications professional from Dayton and a current Ohio Arts Council board member, emceed this year’s Poetry Out Loud state competition. Howard then joined Ohio Arts Council Executive Director Julie Henahan to present awards to the top six finalists. Columbus poet Hannah Stephenson shared her original poems between rounds at the state competition.

Each finalist received a framed original block print, created by Cleveland artist Michael Gill, that incorporated an excerpt of the poem, “Town,” by Hannah Stephenson. Finalists also received and a signed copy of Stephenson’s 2013 book, In the Kettle, the Shriek.

A total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends will be awarded to the winners at the Poetry Out Loud national finals, including a $20,000 cash prize for the national champion.

Ohio has an outstanding track record of competition at the national level. Ohio champion Jackson Hille was the first national Poetry Out Loud winner in 2006. In 2009, Ohio champion Mido Aly was among the top five national finalists, and last year’s Ohio champion, Taribo Osuobeni, received an Honorable Mention.

Poetry Out Loud is presented by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in partnership with the Ohio Arts Council. The program encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition.

Through Poetry Out Loud, students can master public-speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.

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