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Wayne Theatre to host poetry competition for Virginia high school students

Rebecca Barnabi
Poetry Out Loud’s 2023 winner are seen with host Regie Cabico, far right. Courtesy of The Wayne Theatre.

High school poetry enthusiasts will compete tomorrow in the first semi-finals across the United States of Poetry Out Loud.

The top eight students in Virginia will compete in the state championship held at The Wayne on March 8, 2024. The public and community members, especially local students and teachers, are welcome to enjoy the competition at 2 p.m.

Entertainment for the afternoon while the judges make their selections for who will represent Virginia at the national competition of Poetry Out Loud in April in Washington, D.C. will include students from the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind signing poetry in American Sign Language. Mary Baldwin University students in the Shakespeare master’s program will also recite sonnets by the Bard.

According to Corey Holmes, director of education at The Wayne Theatre, more than 40 schools in Virginia have competed in the poetry competition.

In 2005, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation started Poetry Out Loud. Last summer the two organizations approached The Wayne in Waynesboro about hosting and administering the state competition.

High school students from across the country choose two poems from an anthology of selections including contemporary poems and classic pieces such as Shakespeare’s sonnets.

“Some address what high schoolers are experiencing right now,” Holmes said of contemporary poems, such as a piece a student read about an inability to identify their gender.

The students bring life to contemporary works and find new meaning in classic works of poetry.

“It’s a beautiful program,” Holmes said of Poetry Out Loud.

Waynesboro is centrally located in the Commonwealth to serve as the site for the state competition, which will be viewable on Livestream also.

Holmes said she is excited about the representation of students in the competition who come from different regions of Virginia, have different backgrounds and present diversity.

“The diversity of kids who are participating in this competition makes me really happy,” Holmes said.

One student from each state, U.S. territory and Washington, D.C. will compete in April 2024 at the national competition. Since 2005, three students from Virginia have won the national competition.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.