PRESS RELEASE / ANNOUNCEMENTS Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Arts Commission Expands Community Outreach for Poetry Out Loud

Santa Barbara, CA-The Santa Barbara County Arts Commission and the UCSB Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) are excited to bring Associate Director for Community Engagement Rick Benjamin to high school classrooms to encourage participation in the County’s 10th Annual Poetry Out Loud Competition. Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools. The Arts Commission hopes to increase the number of high schools participating in the program with the help of Benjamin’s support and guidance.
The Santa Barbara County Arts Commission will be holding an informational webinar with Benjamin on December 1st. Teachers and administrators will learn more about the program and schedule dates for Benjamin to visit schools to assist teachers and students with the Poetry Out Loud program.
Benjamin, who recently joined UCSB’s faculty and IHC staff, has a depth of experience in this national program. As Rhode Island’s Poet Laureate he served that state’s Poetry Out Loud Program as a coach, judge, and keynote speaker.
While in Rhode Island Rick Benjamin taught at Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, the MFA Program in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College, and in many schools and community and assisted living centers. Benjamin said he has “passed good time in the company of people who range in age from six to ninety-six.” He also served as a Fellow at New Urban Arts, an afterschool arts mentoring program for Providence high school students. Benjamin has published three books of original poetry; Endless Distances, Passing Love, and Floating World. His poems and essays have appeared in PRØOF, Watershed, The Providence Journal, Tongue,, The Writer’s Circle, American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics (Wesleyan University Press), Urthona: An International Buddhist Journal of the Arts, Poem, Home: An Anthology of Ars Poetica (Paper Kite Press), and La Petite Zine.
. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to county-wide and statewide competitions, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, DC. Nearly 300,000 students across the country took part in Poetry Out Loud in 2014-2015. Judges evaluate student performances on articulation, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty, accuracy, and other criteria. Teachers introduce poetry recitation in the classroom using materials created by the NEA and the Poetry Foundation, including a standards-based teacher’s guide, a website, a ‘best performances’ DVD, and a CD featuring poetry recitations by well-known actors and writers such as Anthony Hopkins and Rita Dove.
The Poetry Out Loud high school winners in Santa Barbara County will advance to the county competition scheduled for Wednesday, January 27, 2015 at the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room in the County Administration Building in Santa Barbara. Each state level champion will receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, to compete for the national championship, May 2-4, 2016. The school of the state champion will receive $500 for the purchase of poetry books. In 2009, Santa Barbara County Poetry Out Loud winner Spencer Klavan, went on to win at the State competition and placed in the finals of the National Competition.
To learn more about the Regional Poetry Out Loud contest contact the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission at or call Hannah Rubalcava at 805 568-3990. More information about the California Poetry Out Loud program is available at the California Arts Council website at or at

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