National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman and Poetry Foundation President John Barr Announce Amber Rose Johnson as the 2010 National Winner of Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest
High school student receives $20,000 award in national poetry competition
April 28, 2010
Washington, DC — From a competitive field of more than 320,000 students nationwide, 16-year-old Amber Rose Johnson of Providence, Rhode Island, received the title of 2010 Poetry Out Loud National Champion at the National Finals held in Washington, DC on Tuesday, April 27, 2010. With her achievement, she also receives a $20,000 award and her high school, Classical High School, will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals were held last night at the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. Johnson was among nine finalists and 53 state champions from around the country who participated in the fifth national poetry recitation contest, sponsored by the National Arts Endowment and the Poetry Foundation.
Amber Rose Johnson's final recitation for the evening was "For My People" by Margaret Walker, a gripping statement about the resilience of the African American experience. One of her other poem recitations was Sonnet 116 – "Let me not to the marriage of true minds" by William Shakespeare. The evening's host, actor and comedian John Leguizamo asked Johnson why she selected the poem. "I chose 116 because I think the meaning of love gets distorted, it's important to get back to the essence," said Johnson. "That's what I tell my wife all the time," said Leguizamo.
The second-place winner was Ruth Haile of Sioux Falls Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who received a $10,000 award. The Maryland State Champion, Nora Sandler, of Richard Montgomery High School in Bethesda, Maryland, received the third place prize and a $5,000 award. In addition, each of the top nine finalists received a $1,000 award, and their schools received $500 each for the purchase of poetry books.
The other nine finalists include Alabama State Champion Youssef Biaz (Auburn, AL); Illinois State Champion Annette Putnam (Andover, IL); Montana State Champion Diego Javier Steele (Lolo, MT); Nevada State Champion Emily Orellana (Reno, NV); Virginia State Champion Tia Robinson (Warsaw, VA); Wisconsin State Champion Madeline Bunke (Brookfield, WI). Honorable mention awards went to Shantelle Eddy, St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands; Barbara Gooding of Frankfort, Kentucky; and Brianna Anderson of West Fargo, North Dakota.
Guest judges presided over the competition, including Garrison Keillor, host of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion, actress and activist Alfre Woodard, poets Valerie Martínez and Jane Shore, and poet and critic Adam Kirsch.
On April 26, 53 high school students – Poetry Out Loud champions from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands – competed in three semifinal rounds based on geographic region. Nine students advanced to compete in the National Finals on April 27. Judges evaluated student performances on criteria including physical presence, articulation, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty, and accuracy. Students performed poems from the Poetry Out Loud print and online anthologies (www.poetryoutloud.org). The event was the culmination of a pyramid-structure competition that began last September among schools across the country.
The National Finals are the result of efforts by many partners. The NEA and the Poetry Foundation have contributed support for administration of the program, educational materials, and prizes for both the state and National Finals. Each State Arts Agency implemented the program in high schools in each state, often in collaboration with local arts organizations. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals was administered by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.
Poetry Out Loud seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by building on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the popularity of rap music among youth. Through Poetry Out Loud, students can master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. Now in its fourth year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud has inspired thousands of high school students to discover classic and contemporary poetry. To find out how to get involved in the 2011 Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest, visit www.poetryoutloud.org.
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