Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 2:03 pm | Mostly Cloudy 71º


Pioneer Valley Senior Aldrin Ysip Wins County Arts Commission’s Poetry Out Loud Contest

Aldrin Ysip of Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria took first place in the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission’s Poetry Out Loud countywide competition held Wednesday in Santa Barbara at the County Administration Building.

Aldrin was one of thousands of students across the state to participate in the national recitation contest, a program run by the California Arts Council in the state and started by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation to engage high-school students in the presentation of poetry through memorization and performance.

Aldrin, who selected “A Display of Mackerel” by Mark Doty for his recitation, now advances to represent Santa Barbara County at the state finals in Sacramento March 15-16. At stake are hundreds of dollars on the state competition level and thousands at the national finals of Poetry Out Loud in Washington, D.C., scheduled for April 28-29 in conjunction with the recognition of National Poetry Month.

Eighteen high school students competed in this week’s competition held at the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building in Downtown Santa Barbara. The evening began with a musical interlude provided by the Santa Barbara Strings Honors Quartet. Chryss Yost, Santa Barbara poet laureate, served as emcee for the evening and a stellar panel of judges included Paul Willis and Perie Longo, Santa Barbara poets laureate emeriti, and published poet Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle. Sharon Hoshida served as accuracy judge for this very competitive event.

Judges were charged with the task of selecting a winner, runner up and honorable mention based on criteria that included level of difficulty, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, physical presence, accuracy and overall performance. The event was taped by CSBTV to air on Channel 20 in the coming weeks.

The runner-up position for the event was awarded to Axelina Hallstrom, also from Pioneer Valley High School, for her recitation of “The Death of Allegory” by Billy Collins. The honorable mention award was presented to Aaron Garcia, a student at Orcutt Academy High School, for his recitation of “Onions” by William Matthews.

Faculty members at the event were commended for their commitment to engaging fellow faculty and students in the Poetry Out Loud program. Stephanie Henderson, Gretchen Hess, Monica Kaplan, and Kortnie Cruz from Dos Pueblos High School; Ben Rothstein, Miles Brown and Shawnah VanGronign from Pioneer Valley High School in Santa Maria; Bojana Hill from Laguna Blanca School; Michael Shaw, Jan Brown, Graham Culbertson, Scott Gelotti, Megan McKenzie, Lauren Eubanks from Orcutt Academy High School; and Peggy Lauer from Anacapa School in Santa Barbara were all recognized.

More than 750 students were exposed to the Poetry Out Loud program in Santa Barbara County this year. The success of this program is due in large part to the dedicated teachers who recognize the value of recitation, memorization and interpretation and work closely with students to integrate Poetry Out Loud preparation into their curriculum.

The Poetry Out Loud program now in its 10th year, seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry: recitation and performance. Poetry Out Loud competitions start in the classroom, then at the school, region, state, and national finals, similar to the structure of the spelling bee. The national initiative is part of an attempt to bring literary arts to students, a critical need in U.S. schools, according to a 2004 NEA report Reading at Risk that found a dramatic decline in literary reading, especially among younger readers.

The Santa Barbara County Arts Commission is a division of the Community Services Department of Santa Barbara County. Click here for more information on other programs of the Arts Commission.

— Ginny Brush is executive director of the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission.


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