5/2/2018 1:52:00 AM

Alabama’s Poetry Out Loud Winner, Raina Verser of Huntsville, Placed Second Nationally in the Poetry Ourselves Competition in Washington, DC


Montgomery, AL -- Alabama’s Poetry Out Loud Champion, Raina Verser from Huntsville, placed second nationally in the Poetry Ourselves competition in Washington DC last week, for her performance of her original poem, Syllogism.  An extension of the Poetry Out Loud program, Poetry Ourselves awards students for excellence in writing and performing their own poetry. Poetry Ourselves submissions were adjudicated by poet Jamaal May. May’s book Hum has won the Beatrice Hawley Award, the ALA Notable Book Award, and was a finalist for the NAACP Image award. He is the series editor, graphic designer, and filmmaker for the Organic Weapon Arts chapbook and video series.

Raina Verser, a student from Huntsville, Alabama, was among the 53 Poetry Out Loud champions from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands who participated in the National Finals of Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. Held in Washington, DC, on April 23–25, 2018, the national poetry recitation contest was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. For the National Finals, Raina Verser presented three poems by famous poets: Dear Reader, by Rita Mae Reese, Please Don’t., by Tony Hoagland, and A Noiseless Patient Spider, by Walt Whitman. For the third year in a row, Raina also placed in the top 8 students of her region semi-finals.

Raina, a student at New Century Technology High School, received an all-expenses-paid trip for herself and one chaperone to compete in the National Finals after advancing from high school, regional and state-level competitions. Raina’s teacher, Rebecca Savage-Owens, supported by her school community, has also been able to travel to DC all three years. Ms. Savage Owens is to be congratulated for her exemplary teaching of poetry, as this was her 4th trip to accompany one of her students to Washington DC.

The Poetry Out Loud National Finals were judged by special guests including poets Thomas Dooley and Niki Herd. Judges evaluated the student performances based on criteria including physical presence, voice and articulation, accuracy, and evidence of understanding.

Raina has participated in Poetry Out Loud for the last three years, and each year she has grown in confidence and maturity. Alabama is one of a very few states that includes an original poetry competition in its program, so it is no surprise that Raina placed second in the nation for Poetry Ourselves. She placed first in both Alabama’s original poetry recitation competition and the state’s anthology competition this year. She will be attending the University of Montevallo next year and is already committed to serving as a judge for our 2019 competition next February.

A partnership of the NEA, the Poetry Foundation, and the state arts agencies, Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. Poetry Out Loud offers educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. Students select, memorize, and recite poems from an anthology of more than 900 classic and contemporary poems. In this pyramid structure competition, winners advance from classroom recitation contests to school-wide competitions, then to the state competitions and, ultimately, to the national finals in Washington, DC. To participate in Poetry Out Loud, high school teachers and other educators of high-school-age students must contact the state arts agency Poetry Out Loud coordinator in their state. Visit poetryoutloud.org for a list of contacts and more information about the program. For more information on Alabama’s Poetry Out Loud program visit: arts.alabama.gov.

Janae Claxton, a senior at South Carolina High School was named the 2018 Poetry Out Loud National Champion. Claxton, who attends the First Baptist School of Charleston, wowed the judges and the audience with moving recitations of poems by C.K. Williams, Jonathan Swift, and Sharon Olds. She garnered a $20,000 award for taking top honors among the more than 300,000 student-competitors nationwide who participated in the program this year. (Second and third place went to seniors Nicholas Amador from the Punahou School in Hawaii and Hope Stratman, a senior at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Nebraska.

The 2018 Poetry Out Loud National Finals were held April 24-25 in Washington, DC. Students from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands came to Washington, DC to compete in the national finals.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.

About The Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine and one of the largest literary organizations in the world, exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit www.poetryfoundation.org.