Classical High School student wins RI Arts Council’s Poetry Out Loud recitation contest

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Classical High School’s Mariama Bandabaila

Champion to participate in national and regional poetry competitions

Classical High School’s Mariama Bandabaila is the 2022 winner of the Poetry Out Loud state championship held March 6 at the Greenwich Odeum. Bandabaila joined nine  other students grade 9-12 in 3 rounds of poetry recitation in front of a private audience of family and teachers. In announcing the winner,  the Arts Council said that Bandabaila will be representing the state in the regional competition, May 1, and national finals, June 5. Both competitions will be streamed online.

Visit the Poetry Out Loud RI Facebook page to see images and view the video of the state competition by clicking here.

2022 Poetry Out Loud competitors with placements listed below:

School Name and placement
Classical High School Mariama Bandabaila  (1st)
Central High School Johany Duran             (2nd)
Chariho Regional High School Virginia Keister          (3rd)
East Providence High School  Nazarae Phillip           ( Honorable  Mention)
Portsmouth Abbey School Jennifer Shon               (Honorable  Mention)

The winner of the Poetry Out Loud Rhode Island finals receives $200, and the winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school library. To ensure the safety and health of participating state champions, the 2022 Poetry Out Loud National Finals will be held virtually in lieu of holding them on-site in Washington DC, as previously planned. The finals will present a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends, with a $20,000 award for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

High school students from 10 Rhode Island schools participated in the 17th annual Poetry Out Loud Rhode Island State Finals. After the competitors performed two rounds of recitations, the judges named five finalists, who each presented a third and final poem. Then, the winner, Bandabaila, was selected. She will represent RI during the regional and national competitions in May and June.

RISCA expressed its gratitude to the RI Poetry Out Loud team members for their work during a challenging school year. “On behalf of RISCA and the Poetry Out Loud partners, we congratulate Mariama and wish her good luck this May during the upcoming competitions. I’d also like to thank the participating schools and the hardworking RI Poetry Out Loud team, led by Martha Lenihan Lavieri.” Lavieri is the veteran program coordinator for RI Poetry Out Loud since 2013, first through Arts Equity (formerly VSA Arts RI) as the lead program partner and then independently since 2019.

RI Poetry Out Loud also employs two teaching artists as coaches, Kate Lohman and Damont Combs. Lohman is an actor, director, producer and adjunct professor at Providence College. She also performs extensively in regional theater and summer stock, and was a company member at Pittsburgh Public Theater, Perishable Theater and AS220’s Empire Revue. Combs is a poet in RI originally from Queens, NY. Combs otherwise known as “Mr. Orange” has released two books of poetry, My Poem… My Riddle (Prysmatic Dreams Publishing, 2015) and Damont Combs presents A Touch of Orange (Kingdom Enterprise LLC, 2016).

In addition to coaching the students, “Mr. Orange” was also the performing guest poet during the finals.  He recited his original work, Orange meets black excellence

Audience members were also treated to an impromptu storytelling performance from renowned performer, Len Cabral.

Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, DC. Since its inception, 3.6 million students from 14,000 high schools nationwide have participated in Poetry Out Loud. This year, all preliminary school competitions and visits with teaching artists were done virtually. Students rose to the challenges presented by the pandemic to showcase their love and appreciation for poetry during this atypical school year.

Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, a partnership with the RI State Council on the Arts (RISCA), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, inspires high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performances and competition. Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country.

National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit NEA website.

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative partnerships, prizes and programs.

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