(BOSTON) — Springfield Central High School student Courtney Stewart was named Massachusett's 2014 Poetry Out Loud Champion on Sunday at Boston's Old South Meeting House, repeating his victory from 2013. The sophomore bested 23 other finalists including the 2012 winner, Stephanie Igharosa from Randolph High School, who was named first runner-up. Second runner-up was Darlande Joseney from Avon Middle High School.
Stewart receives an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC where he will compete in Poetry Out Loud's National Finals April 28 — 30. The Huntington has facilitated the competition locally with support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for nine years, since the program began.
The top six finalists also included Sabrina Accime from Meridian Academy in Brookline, Tara Brownson from Dracut Senior High School, and Fitzgerald Eloi from Malden High School.
2014 (and 2013) Poetry Out Loud Massachusetts Champion Courtney
Stewart from Springfield Central High School, photo: Paul Marotta
More than 24,000 students from 84 Huntington-supported schools across the Commonwealth recently participated in classroom and school-wide competitions of the national recitation competition that celebrates the power of the spoken word and a mastery of public speaking skills while cultivating self-confidence and an appreciation of students' literary heritage as they take poetry from the page to the stage. Since its inception, Poetry Out Loud has inspired hundreds of thousands of high school students to discover and appreciate both classic and contemporary poetry.
This year, more than 365,000 studnets, 2,200 schools, and 8,800 teachers participated in POL nationwide. Massachusetts ranked third in the nation for number of students participating, fourth in the nation for number of schools participating, and third in the nation for number of teachers participating. National rankings include all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
Seventy-four regional semi-finalists competed in Boston (sponsored by Brookline Bank), Framingham, Springfield, and on Cape Cod, March 1 and 2.
Recitation and performance are major new trends in poetry. There has been a recent resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of hip-hop music. Poetry Out Loud builds on that momentum by inviting the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theatre into the English class. The NEA and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with state arts agencies to support the expansion of Poetry Out Loud, which encourages the nation's youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. This exciting program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. The Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Huntington sponsor the Massachusetts contest; the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation sponsor the competition on the national level.
Learn more about Poetry Out at huntingtontheatre.org/pol.
ABOUT THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY
Recipient of the 2013 Regional Theatre Tony Award and named Best of Boston 2013 by Boston magazine, the Huntington Theatre Company has developed into Boston's leading professional theatre and one of the region's premiere cultural assets since its founding in 1982. Bringing together superb local and national talent, the Huntington produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current to create award-winning productions, runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development, and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. Under the direction of Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso and in residence at Boston University, the Huntington cultivates, celebrates, and champions theatre as an art form. For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council is a state agency that promotes excellence, access, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences, in order to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and contribute to the economic vitality of our communities. The MCC is committed to building a central place for arts and culture in the everyday lives of communities across the Commonwealth. The Council pursues this mission through a combination of grants, services, and advocacy for cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists.