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2011 Poetry Out Loud competition

The 5th annual Poetry Out Loud regional competition for high school students was held February 8 at the Creamery Arts Center in Springfield. KSMU's Randy Stewart had a front-row seat, as he served as emcee for the event.

RANDY: 10 area high schools, including Springfield Glendale, Kickapoo and Central, as well as Branson, Republic, Dixon, Nixa, Waynesville, West Plains and Stockton High Schools, each sent one student to the competition. Launched in 2005, the Poetry Out Loud National Competition is a collaboration of the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, partnering with state and regional arts agencies. The Springfield Regional Arts Council sponsors the local competition, says Director of Programs and Exhibitions Stephanie Cramer.

STEPHANIE CRAMER: We have more schools participating than any other region in Missouri--we're very proud of that. And Missouri is one of the top performers of Poetry Out Loud. The National Endowment for the Arts studied how we did it, and is trying to improve it. But it's really nice.

RANDY: One of the judges this year was Marcus Cafagna, Associate Professor of English at Missouri State University and Coordinator of Creative Writing at MSU.

(Randy) What is it that you're looking for when you hear the kids?MARCUS CAFAGNA: Well, if I had to narrow it down to one quality, maybe someone who possessed a certain composure perhaps, and was able to render a poem in a dramatic fashion without actually waving their arms around (chuckles) or behaving in an OVERLY dramatic manner! Some poems, given the diction or the the time period that they're written in, are going to be more difficult, probably, to present clearly and in such a way that the audience can understand the nuance of the poem. I certainly look forward to seeing some of these students tackle some of these poems.

(Nicole Andrews is heard reciting John Greenleaf Whittier's "In School-days"...)

RANDY: Each student delivered three poem recitations, and once the results were in at the end of the evening, they had a winner and a runner-up.

(Randy) And tonight's Poetry Out Loud Missouri Regional Runner-Up for 2011 is... Hannah Stark! (cheers and applause fade out) And tonight's Poetry Out Loud Missouri Regional winner for 2011 is... Nicole Andrews! (loud cheers and applause)

Nicole Andrews is a junior at Springfield Central, and performed three poems: In School-days by John Greenleaf Whittier; Ars Poetica by Archibald McLeish; and Candles by Carl Dennis. By beating out the other ten performers she'll advance to the state level in Jefferson City on March 23rd. And if she wins there, Nicole will take an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC to compete in the National Finals. Actually, Nicole's been there before: last year, to be exact, since she won the 2010 Southwest Regional Contest and was Missouri State Champion last year as well, going on to compete in Washington.

(Randy) So how far did you get in D.C. last year?NICOLE ANDREWS: They don't really tell you ranks, but I did not pass my section, which was central America. But there's one from each state and three from the United States territories, so 53 people altogether.(Randy) It's still pretty choice company, isn't it?NICOLE: It very much is. There's so much talent--I could not imagine being a judge! (laughs)

RANDY: Of course Nicole hopes to do even better this year. It was also deja-vu for this year's runner-up, Branson High School junior Hannah Stark, who placed second in the 2010 competition as well. The local winner receives a $200 scholarship award, and a $500 stipend for his or her school for the purchase of poetry books. For KSMU I'm Randy Stewart.