On Wednesday, February 6, 2019, five High School Poetry Out Loud Champions took to the stage at Imagination Theater to compete for the title of El Dorado County Poetry Out Loud Champion. The evening was filled with memorable recitations of poems from classic and contemporary poets. From William Shakespeare to Maya Angelou, T.S. Elliot to May Sarton, the evening was filled with the magic of the spoken word. Before a room brimming with friends, family, and literary aficionados the contestants stepped up one at a time to recite a poem that they chose, connected with, memorized, and rehearsed.
Before the recitations began El Dorado County Poet Laureate Emerita Taylor Graham read her original work about Poetry Out Loud, entitled “Getting the Poem to Heart,” for an appreciative audience. Once the competition began, each High School Champion recited their two chosen poems in two rounds. The first round began with Alena Parat from Union Mine High School who set a playful tone for the evening with “Little Girl,” by Tami Haaland; Oak Ridge High School’s Paula Rabell honored the audience with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29; Charter University Prep’s Ava Adams praised the written word with “Songs for the People,” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper; Independence High School’s Haley Lowe brought “After the War,” by Rachel Galvin, to life, and finally Amy Blair from El Dorado High School graced the stage with “Caged Bird,” by Maya Angelou.
luminary panel of judges was assembled to evaluate and tabulate each recitation diligently, fairly, and without bias. The panel included Mark Acuna, Mayor, City of Placerville; Charlie Basham, Director, Gold Bug Park Development; Jody Franklin, Executive Director of Tourism, El Dorado County Visitor’s Authority; Taylor Graham, El Dorado County Poet Laureate Emerita; Dr. Audrey Keebler, Retired School Administrator; Dr. Ed Manansala, County Superintendent of Schools; Suzanne Roberts, Travel Writer and El Dorado County Poet Laureate; Ann Wofford, Executive Director, Ag in the Classroom; and Peter Wolfe, Artistic Director and Co-Founder, Imagination Theater. Each of the judges took the assignment seriously, not only volunteering their time at the competition but also several hours prior to the event, training with the evaluation criteria created specifically for Poetry Out Loud.
After each recitation, while the judges did all the work of evaluating each recitation, guitarist Julian Sharwarko performed beautiful music that intrigued and entertained the crowd. Once the final tabulation was done after the second round, Master of Ceremonies Andrew Vonderschmitt was joined on the stage by LeMoncheck, to present the first, second and third place awards to the winning competitors.
Confirming the tabulators and judges had indeed fixed upon three top scores the awards were presented to 3rd place competitor, Ava Adams from Charter University Prep, while 2nd place went to Amy Blair from El Dorado High School and 1st place was bestowed upon Paula Rabell from Oak Ridge High School.
Rabell will be preparing with contracted coaches, her Poetry Out Loud Lead teacher, Mark Coovelis, and Arts Council Staff to represent El Dorado County at the California State Finals.
California boasts the largest Poetry Out Loud competition in the country. Since 2005 participation has grown steadily with 54 of 58 counties in the state competing. The state finals will be held on Sunday, March 10th with the Semifinal Rounds at 10:00 a.m. – First Heat and 2:00 p.m. – Second Heat at the California State Library -Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building 914 Capitol Mall, Sacramento, CA 95814 and the Final Round on Monday, March 11th starting at 8:30 a.m. at the State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814.