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Pictured here from left to right: Lee Herrick, Poet Laureate; Carlie Dickens, Liberty High, 1st Place; Chloe DePledge, Glacier High, 2nd place; Matthew Silguero, Glacier High, 3rd place; and Gail Beyer, President of the Madera County Arts Council Board of Directors.

Local Students Speak Out with “California Poetry Out Loud”

Submitted by Julia O’Kane of Madera County Arts Council –

OAKHURST — Five area high schools participated last Saturday in a national program that emphasizes the literary arts and public speaking skills, Poetry Out Loud.

Groups of students from Yosemite, Liberty, Madera High, Madera South High, Ripperdan, Endeavor, Glacier, and Mountain Vista high schools have been memorizing and practicing their poems since last fall. Contestants from each of these schools competed at the Madera County finals on Jan. 23, at Yosemite High School in Oakhurst.

Members of the public encouraged and supported our local students, while enjoying their recitations of traditional and contemporary poems. The first place winner from the Madera County competition will move on to the California final to be held in Sacramento in February.

Madera County high school students are among hundreds across the state working hard to interpret, memorize and recite classical poetry. At stake are hundreds of dollars on the local and state competition level and thousands at the national finals of Poetry Out Loud — a competition run by the California Arts Council in the state and started by the National Endowment for the Arts to engage high school students in the presentation of poetry through memorization and performance.

Madera County was one of 36 counties to participate statewide. Kristin Margolis, Literary Arts Specialist for the California Arts Council observed, “Young people interested in rap and slam contests become fascinated with classical poetry when it’s presented through the Poetry Out Loud competition. The diversity of participants is remarkable. We’ve seen students from all environments, academic levels, and circumstances embrace this life-changing program wholeheartedly. Poetry Out Loud reminds us why words matter and inspires us to read, examine, reflect, write and speak out loud with confidence.”

Experts agree, and see significant benefits from Poetry Out Loud.

“The process of memorizing and sounding a poem is identical to learning to play a piece of music by heart,” said Al Young, Past California State Poet Laureate. “A student or anyone else who takes the time to commit a particular poem to memory learns much about that particular voice and the nuances of poetry in general.”

 The 16 winning students from school site competitions participated in the regional event. Three winners from the regional level were chosen. The top award winner will go on to the State completion in Sacramento in February. The competition is sponsored by California Arts Council and the Madera County Arts Council.

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