39 Students to Compete in West Virginia Poetry Out Loud State Finals Competition

CHARLESTON– Thirty-nine students from across West Virginia will recite poems by Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Maya Angelou, Charleston native Rita Mae Reese and many others during the 2017 state Poetry Out Loud state finals competition set for March 3-4, 2017, at the Culture Center in Charleston.

The winner will represent West Virginia at the 2017 national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C., on April 25-26.

Storyteller, author and recording artist Bil Lepp will serve as master of ceremonies for the state competition. Lepp is a five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars Contest, and his works have received awards and recognition from the Parents’ Choice Foundation, the National Parenting Publications Association and the Public Library Association. In 2011, he was awarded the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award. Lepp is the author of six books and 16 audio collections.

The semi-final competition begins with Division I at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, March 3, followed by Division II at 2:30 p.m.  Saturday’s final competition begins at 1 p.m. West Virginia poet laureate Marc Harshman and musician Christian Lopez will perform during the finals on Saturday. All sessions are free and open to the public.

Born and raised in Martinsburg, W.Va., Lopez is steeped in the musical roots of his West Virginia upbringing. His 2015 debut album, Onward, produced by Grammy Award-winner Dave Cobb, has steadily garnered praise and media attention. Rolling Stone Country proclaimed Lopez as the 2015 “Best Newcomer” at the Americana Music Fest in Nashville, Tenn.

Harshman will serve as a judge, along with West Virginia author and songwriter Colleen Anderson; Cathey Crowell Sawyer, producing artistic director of Greenbrier Valley Theatre; Anthony Braxton, 2011 Poetry Out Loud state champion and current senior business management major at West Virginia University; Randi Ward, poet, translator, lyricist and photographer from Belleville, W.Va.; Joel Peckham Jr., assistant professor of literature and creative writing at Marshall University; and Charleston author and poet Ace Boggess.

The state champion receives $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to the national finals. The school receives $500 to purchase poetry books and materials. The runner-up receives $100, while the school receives $200 for poetry books and materials.

This year, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the West Virginia Commission on the Arts commissioned Kanawha County artist Nik Botkin to create the West Virginia Poetry Out Loud champion trophy and a companion award that will be displayed at the winning school. Students will also receive original works by West Virginia artists G.W Lanham, Emily Sokolosky of Base Camp Printing Company and a new WVU Press anthology of fiction and poetry by West Virginia writers.

Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry Magazine, the oldest English-language monthly publication dedicated to verse. The program is designed to encourage high school-age students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition.

For more information, contact Jim Wolfe, arts in education coordinator, at (304) 558-0240 or email him at james.d.wolfe@wv.gov.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the Office of Secretary of Education and the Arts with Gayle Manchin, cabinet secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org.


Catharine Whiddon – Berkeley Springs High School, Morgan County

Emily King – Buckhannon-Upshur High School, Upshur County

Ella Cooper – Cabell Midland High School, Cabell County

Cheyenne Meeks – Cameron High School, Marshall County

Ostin Williams – Capital High School, Kanawha County

Jodee Mullins – Chapmanville Regional High School, Logan County

Dalton Miller – East Hardy High School, Hardy County

Daniel Dyal – Fayetteville High School, Fayette County

Sarah Marzouk – George Washington High School, Kanawha County

Trevor Swiger – Grafton High School, Taylor County

Brett Napier – Greenbrier East High School, Greenbrier County

Elyse Samassekou – Huntington High School, Cabell County

Tate Dixon – Hurricane High School, Putnam County

Aubree Gray – John Marshall High School, Marshall County

Kierston Carson – Lewis County High School, Lewis County

Halona Webb – Liberty High School, Harrison County

Natasha Fowler – Logan High School, Logan County

Ryan Horn – Magnolia High School, Wetzel County

Emily Cales – Meadow Bridge High School, Fayette County

Trent Browning – Midland Trail High School, Fayette County

Sarah Beth Ealy – Morgantown High School, Monongalia County

Beverly Yarber – Nicholas County High School, Nicholas County

Makayla Tyree – Nitro High School, Kanawha County

Anthony Bankers-Beckett – Notre Dame High School, Harrison County

Morgan Harris – Oak Glen High School, Hancock County

Summer Danley – Oak Hill High School, Fayette County

Anya Glover – Paden City High School, Wetzel County

Grayland Emerson Brown – Parkersburg High School, Wood County

Leah Seaman – Philip Barbour High School, Barbour County

Caleb Hanna – Richwood High School, Nicholas County

Jerrod Hildreth – Roane County High School, Roane County

Amber Sturgill – Shady Spring High School, Raleigh County

Kayden Upton – South Charleston High School, Kanawha County

Solange Disasi – Spring Mills High School, Berkeley County

Sabrina Smith – Tyler Consolidated High School, Tyler County

Kristin Wolfe – Union Educational Complex, Grant County

Tyler Ray – Webster County High School, Webster County

Isabelle Pethtel – Wirt County High School, Wirt County

Madison Walker – Woodrow Wilson High School, Raleigh County

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