The National Endowment for the Arts and the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation are betting on the popularity of poetry slams and rap music among young people to help build participation in a new contest emphasizing memorization and performance.
The Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest will expand on a pilot program early next year with local and state competitions for high school students nationwide. It will culminate in a national finals next spring, with $50,000 in scholarships for the winners.
“Learning great poetry by heart develops the mind and imagination,” endowment Chairman Dana Gioia, a respected poet himself, said in a statement. “By immersing themselves in powerful language and ideas, the students will develop their ability to speak well, especially in public.”
Contestants will recite and perform select poems and other literary works. They will be judged on volume, speed, voice inflection, posture and presence, evidence of understanding, pronunciation, gestures, accuracy, and level of difficulty. No composition is involved.
The national endowment and the foundation, which publishes Poetry magazine, will also offer print and online materials to help teachers teach poetry recitation and performance. They have each pledged $500,000 to support the project.
For more information, go to www.poetryoutloud.org.