On Saturday, Jan. 26, PAEP hosted the 2019 Poetry Out Loud Regional Finals on behalf of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA). The competition, launched by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance, and works with state agencies for expansion. The PCA implemented its Poetry Out Loud program through its Arts in Education Partner (PAEP) and the Pennsylvania Parent Teacher Association.
Fourteen students from Philadelphia-area high schools competed in the regional finals. Each student recited three poems, judged by a panel of performers, poets and cultural and business leaders from across the region. The students received mentorship from teachers and principals at their schools, as well as some of the judges on the panel—including PA Council Member Susan H. Goldberg, Director of Education at Delaware Theatre Company Charles Conway, Curator of Exhibits at the African American Museum Richard Watson, poet and adjunct professor at Stockton University Peter Murphy, and Director Emeritus of the Drexel University Theatre Program, Department of Performing Arts, Adelle Rubin.
The winners of the regional finals were Cornelia Yoyo, who placed second, and Junius Jones, who placed first. Cornelia, a senior at the Girard Academy Music Program, recited “Violins” by Rowan Ricardo Phillips, “What Women Are Made Of” by Bianca Lynne Spriggs, and “Sanctuary” by Jean Valentine. Junius, a senior at The Haverford School, recited “It Couldn’t Be Done” by Edgar Albert Guest, “Thoughtless Cruelty” by Charles Lamb, and “Flounder” by Natasha Trethewey.
This is not Junius’ first foray at the regional finals. In 2016, he also represented his school at the competition, reciting “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, “I, Too” by Langston Hughes and—for the first time—“Flounder” by Natasha Trethewey. As to why he returned to the poem, he said he enjoyed it.
“I was speaking with him [Richard Watson] and he told me to put more caesuras in it [stops or pauses in a line] and it worked,” Junius said.
Junius also thanked his teacher, Ms. Taylor Smith-Kan, for her support at both competitions.
First place winners of the regional finals will go on to compete at the PA state finals on March 4, 2019, at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.