Poetry Out Loud

State competition should provide plenty of challenges

Tajah-Rayne Davise of Calumet High School, front row, fifth from left, is the 2019 winner of Michigan’s Poetry Out Loud competition. Registration is underway for the 2019-20 program. (Photo courtesy of Trumpie Photography)

MARQUETTE — Poetry doesn’t have to be a quiet, introspective activity.

Michigan Humanities has opened registration for the 2019-20 Poetry Out Loud program, which allowed high schoolers to recite poetry competitively.

The program helps students learn about poetry while mastering public speaking skills and building self-confidence.

“We are excited to celebrate the 15th year of Poetry Out Loud in Michigan, and look forward to seeing the creative, meaningful ways that students and teachers across the state engage in the arts and humanities through this collaborative program with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs,” said Shelly Hendrick Kasprzycki, Michigan Humanities’ president and CEO, in a news release.

Poetry Out Loud in Michigan is part of a national initiative and is sponsored by Michigan Humanities, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The program is provided at no cost to schools, teachers or students. Registration is available at michiganhumanities.org/poetryoutloud. Schools must registered before Nov. 21 to participate in the program this school year.

Student champions for each participating school advance to the state competition on March 13-14 at the Lansing Crowne Plaza.

Michigan’s state champion receives at minimum a $200 cash award, a $500 stipend for his or her school to purchase poetry materials, and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to represent the state at the national competition on April 27-29. The first runner-up will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school.

Tajah-Rayne Davise of Calumet High School was named the 2019 Poetry Out Loud State Champion for Michigan after completing three rounds of the annual recitation competition at the Lansing Crowne Plaza in March.

Davise took top honors among 33 of her peers, reciting “Love (III)” by George Herbert in the final round. First runner-up was David DeBacker of Detroit Catholic Central High School, followed by second runner-up Grace Garver of Petoskey High School and third runner-up of Soja Kureekkattil of Rochester High School.

“Poetry Out Loud transforms a classroom into a laboratory of language,” said Lacey O’Donnell, Davise’s former teacher at Calumet, in a news release. “The students’ experimentation with recitation creates a creative, collaborative and inspired atmosphere.”

Roxy Sprowl was the champion from Marquette Senior High School this year. According to Katie Wittenauer, director of programs for Michigan Humanities, Sprowl made the state finals in 2017 and 2018 as well.

What was Sprowl’s reaction after her first win?

“Really excited,” Sprowl told The Mining Journal after her 2017 win as a freshman. “I didn’t really think I was going to at first, before I came into it, because I watched so many videos of other people doing it, and I was like, ‘Gotta step up my game.’ So then I practiced really hard and I wrote down my poems everywhere.”

Michigan Humanities, based in Lansing, has as its vision to be a “sustainable, passionate, unifying force that is the humanities leader throughout the state.”

For more information about Poetry Out Loud in Michigan, contact Wittenauer at 517-372-7770 or kwittenauer@mihumanities.org.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.