Stuart’s Opera House To Host Poetry Out Loud Semifinal

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Nelsonville’s renowned Stuart’s Opera House will play host to Southeast Ohio’s regional Poetry Out Loud semifinal on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 1:30 pm.

In 2005, Poetry Out Loud was established by the National Endowment for the Arts, and the following year in 2006, Ohio would become a participatory state in the annual competition. This year marks a first for a regional event in Southeast Ohio, and Stuart’s own participation as a member of the Ohio Arts Council.

Open to Ohio students grades nine through 12, participants are tasked with selecting and memorizing a notable work of poetry to be recited competitively. The competition is similar to the format of the National Speech and Debate Association, which has its own poetry category.

“The students must choose a poem from an online anthology, or from the print Poetry Out Loud anthology,” said Stuart’s Education Director Emily Prince.

Among the works of poetry to be found among the anthology are selections pre-dating the 20th century as well as poems under twenty five lines.

The contest endows its participants with a number of skills.

The organization’s website states that the program aims to “master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life.”

“Recitation is a fading art.” said Prince. “Leaning about their poems can encourage students to learn about poetry and creative writing.”

A growing importance has been placed on the appreciation of literature in recent years, following a slow gravitation away from the arts in the American education system for the past several years.

Students also have the opportunity to win big prizes as well. After successfully making it through class, school-wide, regional, and state competitional tiers, those eligible for the national contest will receive an all-expenses paid trip to nationals in Washington, D.C. Additionally they get to take home a $200 cash prize and a $500 stipend for poetry books.

First and second runner up’s have the opportunity to earn $100 and $200 respectively for their own schools.

The public can also enjoy a poetry reading by Wendy McVicker, regional co-coordinator of the Southeast Ohio event. State finals take place in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, March 4.