11th Annual Poetry Out Loud Regional Competition Announces Winners

Kira Burkhauser of Hickory High School wins the title of Regional Champion and will go on to compete at the poetryoutloadState competition.

Erie Arts & Culture announces the winner of the regional finals for Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest. The competition, presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

On Saturday, February 13, high school students representing four of the six counties in Northwestern Pennsylvania gathered at Days Inn Meadville Conference Center to compete for the title of regional champion.  Kira Burkhauser of Hickory High School in Hermitage won, and will go on to represent our region at the State competition held in Harrisburg this March. The state champion will then compete at the national competition in Washington, DC. More than $100,000 in prizes are awarded at the state and national competitions each year, with the National Champion winner awarded $20,000.

Burkhauser’s favorite poem she recited was “No Coward Soul Is Mine” by Emily Bronte. Burkhauser explained that the meaning of the poem is very versatile. “On the surface level, it may be associated with religion,” she said. “But if you look deeper, you’ll find that it is about finding strength within yourself. The various ways of interpreting the poem could help a lot of different people.” Burkhauser said she experienced a great sense of gratification that her hard work had paid off upon winning the competition. This was her second time competing; she also won the regional title in 2014 as a sophomore. Additionally, Burkhauser will have the opportunity to teach eighth graders in her school district about poetry in hopes of getting them excited to potentially participate in Poetry Out Loud once they begin high school.

Competitor Jacob Rhoades, from Jamestown High School, was the first runner up. This was also his second time participating in Poetry Out Loud. His favorite poem was “The Impossible Replication of Desire” by Lee Herrick. Rhoades explained that while he may be shy, poetry allows him to easily express himself. “Poetry is a way for me to get out and show the world who I am inside. I’m not too comfortable around people; poetry communicates who I am,” he said.

Other competitors included Amani Ware from East High School, Gabriel Gallagher from Mercyhurst Prep, Isabel Sepulveda from Meadville Area Senior High School, and Samantha Ericson from Fort LeBoeuf High.

The regional competition was judged by Erie County’s very own Poet Laureate, Christopher “Cee” Williams, author of three book-length collections of poetry and founder of Poets’ Hall and Poets’ Hall Press, both non-profit endeavors which he operates nearby his alma mater, East High School.  Other judges included Donna Baker, retired English teacher from Conneaut Valley High School, Dr. Greg Brown, Director of the Writing Center at Mercyhurst University, Jan Hyatt, founder of the Meadville based Creating Landscapes Learning Center, providing creative educational programs for children, teens, and young adults, and Lora Zill, state-rostered Teaching Artist, and faculty at both Gannon University and Allegheny College. 

About Erie Arts & Culture

The mission of Erie Arts & Culture is to strengthen the vibrancy and vitality of the Erie Region and enrich the lives of our people through the advancement of arts and culture. Additional information about Erie Arts & Culture is available online at www.erieartsandculture.org.

About Poetry Out Loud

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 across the country. Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to the regional competition, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, DC. Some 365,000 students from more than 2,300 high schools took part in the 2014–2015 Poetry Out Loud program.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit arts.gov.

About the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit www.poetryfoundation.org.

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