Preparation is well underway for Santa Barbara County’s 5th Annual Poetry Out Loud Competition. The competition represents the first step of a national recitation contest, a program run by the California Arts Council in the state and started by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to engage high-school students in the presentation of poetry through memorization and performance. The winner of the Santa Barbara County competition will go on to compete at the California state finals in Sacramento in March. At stake will be hundreds of dollars on the state competition level and thousands at the national finals of Poetry Out Loud in Washington DC in April. The contest is part of the celebration of April as National Poetry Month.

“In a world inundated with cryptic emails, tweets, sound bites and blips it is glorious fun to spend an evening reveling in the spoken word and the literary contributions of American poets thanks to the Poetry Out Loud program,” said Ginny Brush, Executive Director of the County Arts Commission. The Arts Commission organizes and hosts the event each year.

Barry Spacks, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emeritus will serve as this year’s emcee for the February 9th evening event. A stellar panel of judges including Perie Longo, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emeritus, and published poets Chryss Yost, and Carol DeCanio will bring their expertise to evaluating and judging the competition.

Last year twenty-two high school students competed in the Arts Commission’s Countywide Poetry Out Loud Competition held at the Board of Supervisors Hearing in Santa Barbara. Kelly Nakashima, a Freshman at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta took first place in the competition and went on to compete in Sacramento at the State level. In 2009 the Santa Barbara County Poetry Out Loud winner Spencer Klavan, a senior at Laguna Blanca School, went on to win at the State finals in Sacramento and represented California at the National Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington D.C. in April that same year.

The success of this program is due in large part to the dedicated teachers who recognize the value of recitation, memorization and interpretation and work closely with students to integrate Poetry Out Loud preparation into their curriculum. Faculty members William Woodard from Dos Pueblos High School, Roberta Nye, from Santa Barbara High School, Dr. David Barndollar from Laguna Blanca School, and Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle from El Puente Community School have all been busy engaging their students in preparation for the February 9th Competition.


The Poetry Out Loud program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry: recitation and performance. Poetry Out Loud competitions start in the classroom, then at the school, region, state, and national finals, similar to the structure of the spelling bee. The national initiative is part of an attempt to bring literary arts to students, a critical need in U.S. schools, according to a 2004 NEA report Reading at Risk that found a dramatic decline in literary reading, especially among younger readers.

“Young people interested in rap and slam contests can be surprisingly interested in classical poetry when it’s presented through the Poetry Out Loud competition,” said Muriel Johnson, Outgoing Director of the California Arts Council. “We’ve seen students from all backgrounds and academic levels embrace this program wholeheartedly. It can change their lives.”

Santa Barbara County Arts Commission’s

5th Annual Poetry Out Loud Competition

DATE: February 9, 2011 5-7:30pm

LOCATION: Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, 4th Floor

County Administration Building

105 East Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA

INFO: 805.568.3990


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