Mid-Ohio Valley students to compete in poetry event

CHARLESTON — Forty-three students from across West Virginia will recite poems by Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Margaret Atwood, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Tarfia Faizullah, Charleston native Rita Mae Reese and others during the 2018 Poetry Out Loud state finals competition set for Friday and Saturday at the Culture Center in Charleston.

The winner will represent West Virginia at the 2018 national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C., on April 24-25.

Students participating from the Mid-Ohio Valley are Faith Wineman, Doddridge County High School; Jacob Pennell, Magnolia High School; Delainey Lantz, Paden City High School; Emma Smith, Parkersburg High School; Renee Varnell, Ripley High School; Willow Campbell, Roane County High School; Katelyn Stillwagoner, Tyler Consolidated High School; and Alexis Petrovsky, Wirt County High School.

Storyteller, author and recording artist Bil Lepp will serve as master of ceremonies for the state competition at the state theater in the Culture Center of the state Capitol Complex. Lepp is a five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars Contest, and his works have received awards and recognition from the Parents’ Choice Foundation, the National Parenting Publications Association and the Public Library Association.

In 2011, he was awarded the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award.

The semi-final competition begins with Division I at 9:30 a.m. Friday, followed by Division II at 2:30 p.m. Saturday’s final competition begins at 1 p.m. West Virginia poet laureate Marc Harshman, poet/fiddler Doug Van Gundy and poet/lyricist Randi Ward of Wood County will perform during the finals on Saturday. All sessions are free and open to the public.

Harshman and Van Gundy will serve as judges, along with West Virginia author and songwriter Colleen Anderson; Cathey Crowell Sawyer, producing artistic director of Greenbrier Valley Theatre; Carol Taylor Johnson, professor of English at West Virginia State University; and Barter Theatre educator Megan Atkinson Hamilton.

The state champion receives $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to the national finals. The school receives $500 to purchase poetry books and materials. The runner-up receives $100, while the school receives $200 for poetry books and materials.

This year, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts commissioned Gilmer County artist Matt Thomas to create the West Virginia Poetry Out Loud champion trophy and a companion award that will be displayed at the winning school. Students will also receive original works created by Emily Sokolosky of Base Camp Printing Company in Charleston, Wood County poet Randi Ward, and Matt Thomas.

Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry Magazine, described as the oldest English-language monthly publication dedicated to verse. The program is designed to encourage high school-age students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition.