Bishop, CA — Sophomore Samantha Burns, from Bishop Union High School, received the title of Inyo County Poetry Out Loud Champion, for the second year in a row, at the ninth annual county finals held in Bishop on February 6, 2019. The runner-up was Erik Martinez, from Owens Valley High School. Students from Bishop Union, Palisade Glacier, Owens Valley, and Keith Bright schools not only competed, but wowed the full house with their dramatic interpretations of both well-known and more obscure poetic works. ICA would like to thank these students, and their teachers, for participating in this powerful and popular program.
An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, administered statewide by the California Arts Council, and locally by Inyo Council for the Arts, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. Participants master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Performances are judged on criteria including presence, evidence of understanding, dramatic performance, and accuracy. California’s Poetry Out Loud is the largest event of its kind in the U.S. and has grown steadily since its inception. The 2019 competition series encompasses 53 counties, 305 schools, and 730 teachers, reaching nearly 60,600 students statewide.
Burns proudly represented Inyo County at the California State Finals in Sacramento March 10th and 11th, making it to the final round of competition. She said, “I really loved being at the Poetry Out Loud State Competition. One of my favorite parts was listening to all the poems presented by the 51 other County champions. They were so inspiring and beautiful. I also liked meeting the other competitors and I made some new friends. We all supported each other. The hotel was very nice and so close to the Capital so we walked everyplace. A new activity was the group presentation of a poem we practiced to present to parents and teachers inside the Senate Chambers. We each had a seat in the Senate Chambers which was a rare opportunity. The entire event was so well organized and I was surprised at the amount of details and the amount of people to make this event happen. Dana Gioia, founder of Poetry Out Loud, was there and recited one of his poems, Pity the Beautiful, which I loved. It was wonderful being with such dedicated and talented people. I learned that it is difficult, frightening, and intense to recite poetry in front of judges and so many people but at the same time so thrilling and exciting.”
Lily Bogas of Tamalpais High School in Marin County took the title of California State Champion. Bogas, a devout drama student, explained the connection she feels between Poetry Out Loud and her love of the theater: “I find this opportunity of poetry recitation a really beautiful practice to just come back to yourself, and speak from your soul, because in the end being sincere and true to yourself is really what people in the theater—and everywhere—crave to see in a performance,” she said.
Penny DellaPelle, a sophomore at San Luis Obispo High School in San Luis Obispo County, was runner-up and will represent California in the national finals in the event Bogas is unable to attend. Jackson Dean, a senior at Palm Valley School and repeat Riverside County champion, took third place.
Sonoma County champion Zoya Ahmed took first place in the newly added creative writing contest portion of the program, Poetry Ourselves. Included in the Poetry Out Loud contest on the national level since 2016, this year marks the first time California offered students the chance to submit original written works at the state level. Ahmed, a 16-year-old sophomore from Maria Carrillo High School in Sonoma County, delivered a rousing recitation of her original poem, “A Concerto of Spice.” County champions Ceiba Cummings of Yreka High School in Siskiyou County and Georgia Schreiner of Villanova Preparatory School in Ventura County tied as runners-up for their original works, “I Was Your World” and “Alphabet Soup.”
Bogas will go on to represent the state of California at the national finals in April in Washington, D.C. For more information about how to follow this exciting national competition, visit www.poetryoutloud.org.
Runner Up Erik Martinez from OVHS and winner Samantha Burns from BUHS. Photo by Amy Leist.