RAAC presents Poetry Out Loud regionals

By Anne E. O’Keefe
Rockford Area Arts Council

This is the eighth year Rockford Area Arts Council has convened the regional competition for Poetry Out Loud. All high schools, private and public, are invited to participate. The 2016 competition will consist of students from Jefferson and Auburn. A combined 280 students will start out between the two schools and will then be pared down for the regional competition at the Jefferson High School Auditorium, 4145 Samuelson Road, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17.

Teachers from Jefferson and Auburn are responsible not only for motivating students to participate but giving their time to coach students looking for additional help preparing.

Douglas McArthur, a teacher at Jefferson, sees the value of this opportunity for students. “Poetry recitation does so much for a student! In addition to gaining a better understanding and appreciation for poetry itself; it builds confidence, improves close-reading skills, expands vocabulary, and teaches public speaking skills. These skills can impact their lives far beyond any simple poetry unit. Every year I watch them begin with fear and trepidation, proceed with growing confidence, and deliver with surprising results.” Teachers at Auburn lending a hand are Jim Crow, Barb Dowdakin, and Charles Kerr.

RAAC’s Education and Engagement Director, Sharon Nesbit-Davis said, “Students had to choose two poems from hundreds of possibilities. They had to memorize the poem, explore its meaning and convey that meaning through the recitation. They had to stand on stage alone and recite it to an audience of friends, family, strangers, fellow contestants, and the judges. That takes courage. Self-confidence builds through experiences like this.”

Students are judged on pronunciation, accuracy, dramatic appropriateness, physical presentation, evidence of understanding the poem and difficulty of the poem.

Judges this year come from Rockford Writers Guild, Rockford University and from the community; Richard Vargas, Lori W. Marshall, Carl Lehnen, George Davis, and Katharine Hopkins. Thanks to other volunteers; Carol Carbone, Claire Rotello and Jefferson High School Thespians.

Two finalists will travel to Springfield on March 11.

Funding is made possible by National Endowment for the Arts, National Poetry Foundation, and the Illinois Arts Council Agency. For more information you can visit  poetryoutloud.org.

The Poetry Out Loud Recitation Contest was created in 2006 by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation. The contest was created to increase awareness in the art of performing poetry, with substantial cash prizes being awarded to schools that participated as well as representatives from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

RAAC continues to make new friends. We are excited to be kicking off our first RAAC’s Third Thursday at Jason’s Deli fundraiser with our community partner. Bring your family and friends to Jason’s Deli, 575 S. Perryville Road, for a delicious dinner on Thursday, February 18 from 5-8 p.m., mention that you are supporting the Rockford Area Arts Council and we will earn 15 percent of your order price. We will be participating every third Thursday for the year, thanks to our friends at Jason’s Deli.

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