There is rhyme and reason in Poetry Out Loud’s state winners for 2022. The Illinois champion, from tiny Franklin High School, is set to compete for a $20,000 national prize in this popular recitation contest.
“I can’t believe it. I won!” was champion Cole Delaney’s immediate response when the Springfield Area Arts Council announced his name at the top of 17 regional finalists.
Last September, 28 Illinois high schools and 127 teachers began their participation in Poetry Out Loud. Statewide, 4,597 students competed in eight regions. Winners there entered the state contest this week, conducted virtually because of the lingering pandemic.
A panel of language-expert judges viewed videos in which each student recited three poems chosen from several hundred approved possibilites, some classic and some modern. Naomi Kelly from Wheaton Warrenville South High School placed second, and another student from Franklin, Thaddeus Bergschneider, was third.
“They broke my heart with their sincerity,” recalled judge Mark Turcotte, himself a poet. Othere judges were Joshua Kryah, professor of English, Morgan Minsk, a former Illinois Poetry Out Loud national finalist, and Demetrice A. Worley, also a professor of English. Springfield poet and librarian Théa Chesley checked recitation accuracy and mainframe programmer Bob Jessup handled computer scorekeeping. Technician David Cain managed the recorded entries.
To win the competition, Delaney recited “The Day” by Geoffrey Brock; “Fate” by Carolyn Wells; and “Not Horses” by Natalie Shapero. He advances to April’s national competition, this year again being staged virtually.
The Illinois contest featured recitations by winning students from each of eight state regions: Central, Chicago-City, Chicago-Metro, Eastern, Northern, South-central, Southern, and Western.
Here are names and schools of those regional winners:
Audrey Brumley (Carbondale Community High School)
Grace Casey (Freeburg Community High School)
Lauren Dobbels (Orion High School)
Kelcey Dodd (Jefferson High School, Rockford)
Rebecca Drake (Massac County High School)
Olivia Goodley (Annawan High School)
Veda Kommineni (Edwardsville High School)
Skylar Lim (Taft High School, Chicago)
Jocelyn Lin (Carbondale Community High School)
Keaton Meier (Hersey High School, Arlington Heights)
Ariana Mizan (University Laboratory High School, Urbana)
Mabolanle Salawu (Mather High School, Chicago)
Wade Schacht (Champaign Central High School)
The contest coordinator was Sheila Walk, executive director of the Springfield Area Arts Council, assisted by local writer Carey Smith. State program manager was Susan Dickson of the Illinois Arts Council Agency.
Poetry Out Loud in Illinois is a collaborative project of the Illinois Arts Council Agency and seven arts agencies who host regional contests. As a national program, Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through analysis, memorization, performance, and competition. The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in conjunction with state arts agencies, support this nation-wide program with participants from all fifty states plus Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
More information is available at www.poetryoutloud.org or from the Springfield Area Arts Council.
Cole Delaney, Franklin High School