[box_light]WASHINGTON, D.C. — From a competitive field of some 365,000 students nationwide, Kristen Dupard, a senior at Ridgeland High School in Ridgeland, Mississippi, won the title of 2012 Poetry Out Loud National Champion at the National Finals held in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. With her achievement, Dupard also received a $20,000 award and her high school, Ridgeland High School, received a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.
The Poetry Out Loud National Finals were held at the Harman Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C. Dupard was among nine finalists and 53 state champions from across the country who participated in the seventh national poetry recitation contest, sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
[/box_light]A two-time Mississippi State Champion, Dupard has made two trips to Washington, DC to compete in the national recitation contest. It was her first year to advance from the Poetry Out Loud Semifinals. Dupard’s final recitation for the evening was “Invitation to Love,” a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, widely acknowledged as the first important black poet in American literature. Dupard also recited Philip Levine’s “What Work Is” and Cornelius Eady’s “I’m a Fool to Love You.” Dupard named current U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine’s “What Work Is” as her favorite poem; she found it “especially relevant since so many people have worked hard to get here to the National Finals.”
The second-place winner in the 2012 Poetry Out Loud national competition was Claude Mumbere of Burlington, Vermont, who received a $10,000 award. MarKaye Hassan of Logan, Utah, received the third-place prize and a $5,000 award.
In addition, the 4th – 9th place finalists each received a $1,000 award, and their schools received $500 each for the purchase of poetry books. The other finalists were Samuel Opoku (Thornton, CO); Gwen Morrison (Marshalltown, IA); Russell Heitman (Hebron, NE); Jessica Kariisa (Raleigh, NC); Daphnee R. McMaster (Reading, PA); and Langston Ward (Spokane, WA).
Guest judges presiding over the final rounds of competition on Friday night included poets Marilyn Chin and Major Jackson; PBS Newshour’s Jeffrey Brown; radio host Garrison Keillor; and the executive director of the Poetry Society of America, Alice Quinn.
Guest judges evaluating recitations during the semifinal rounds on Monday included poet and commissioner of the Social Security Administration Michael Astrue, poet and non-fiction writer Sandra Beasley, poet and teacher Jennifer Chang, poet and educator Kyle Dargan, National Executive Director of Young Audiences Arts for Learning David Dik, poet and physician Frederick Foote, poet and teacher Diana García, poet and teacher Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, and actor Craig Wallace.
Poetry Out Loud seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by building on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the popularity of rap music among youth. Through Poetry Out Loud, students can master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. Now in its seventh year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud has inspired thousands of high school students to discover classic and contemporary poetry. To find out how to get involved in the 2013 Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest, visit www.poetryoutloud.org.