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Yerington student competes in Washington, D.C., at Poetry Out Loud finals


Mikayla Bates, Elko, left; Christian Schunke, Yerington; and Princess Jackson, Henderson, were winners at Nevada Poetry Out Loud in March. Schunke will compete in Washington D.C. in the Poetry Out Loud National Finals.
Christian Schunke, a senior at Yerington High School in Lyon County, will compete in the National Finals for Poetry Out Loud held Tuesday And Wednesday, April 29 and 30 in Washington, D.C. He is one of 53 finalists from a field of 375,000 who competed nationally. Schunke was named Nevada’s 2014 Poetry Out Loud State Champion at the Ninth Annual Nevada State Finals March 15 at the Siena Hotel in downtown Reno. Schunke recited “I am the People, the Mob” by Carl Sandburg; “American Smooth” by Rita Dove; and “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.

“We value poetry and our poets in Nevada,” said Susan Boskoff, executive director of Nevada Arts Council. “With the communities of Yerington, Elko and Las Vegas represented by our top three winners in this year’s Poetry Out Loud competition, it’s clear that poetry is relevant to students across the state.

Schunke received $1,000, an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. and $1,000 for his school for the purchase of poetry books and/or literary programming. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will give a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends, with a $20,000 prize for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

Neda Ulaby, arts and culture reporter for National Public Radio, will host the event where teens will recite poems on stage, in a public forum, and compete for the top award. Guest judges include poets Ming Di, Valerie Martínez, novelist Tope Folarin, Poets House Director Lee Briccetti and actor and performer Chris Sarandon.

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. In Nevada, Poetry Out Loud is also a program of the Nevada Arts Council, presented in partnership with the Nevada Alliance for Arts Education, Nevada Department of Education, and the major sponsor is NV Energy. The program encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high school students across the country. Poetry Out Loud gives students an opportunity to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

The 53 champions will gather at the Poetry Out Loud semifinals on Tuesday, April 29, from 9 a.m. to 8p.m. at Lisner Auditorium at The George Washington University. Nine finalists will advance to the National Finals, also held at Lisner Auditorium,on Wednesday, April 30, from 7 to 9:15 p.m.

“Since the first national Poetry Out Loud contest in 2006, more than 2 million high school students, and tens of thousands of teachers at thousands of high schools have taken this program and made it their own,” said NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa. “We are delighted to work in partnership with the Poetry Foundation, with state arts agencies, local arts organizations, schools, and teachers to help students discover the art of poetry.”

“To memorize and recite a great poem of the past or present,” said Robert Polito, President of the Poetry Foundation, “is to ‘own’ it in the most personal way — in your body, your breath, and your spirit. Recitation is obviously an interpretive act, but also creative, and possibly even self-transformative.”

The entire semifinals and finals are available to watch online through a live, one-time only webcast or can be followed on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, #POL14. For more information on the event, webcast, or viewing parties, visit arts.gov or call 202-682-5606.

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