Poetry Out Loud 2017 is here!
Thurs Jan 26: Invitational @ Central Library
Thurs Feb 16: Regionals @ Central School
Sat March 11: State Finals in Baton Rouge

High school students across Southwest Louisiana are needed for this highly competitive poetry recitation contest. Interested schools, students, and parents need to contact the Arts Council at 337-439-2787 for further information.

Poetry Out Loud began in 2005 when the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation came together to yield a program that would challenge high school students to study and memorize poetry in a competitive setting while building public speaking skills, confidence, and character.

For students to compete at Regional’s, the schools must register their own Poetry Out Loud competition with the Arts Council. For more information on Poetry Out Loud or the Regional Competition, contact the Arts Council office at (337) 439-2787.

On Thursday, February 11, six high school students from across the region competed for the top three honors at the Arts Council of SWLA’s annual SWLA Regional Poetry Out Loud Competition in the Benjamin W. Mount Auditorium at Central School. Poetry Out Loud is a national pyramid tier contest that challenges high school students to memorize and recite poetry in a competitive setting. Four judges, Erica McCreedy, Public Relations Director at O’Carroll Group; Julian Quebedeaux, Media Director at Christian World; Keisha Broxton Payne, spoken word poet and blogger; and Lela Gholar Tizano, Special Education Behavior Interventionist with the Calcasieu Parish School Board, critiqued the students on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy. Danny Belanger, MPA, Director of Arts Education and Accessibility, Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, also delivered an encouraging message to the competitors and audience members from Lt. Governor William H.  Nungesser.

Ashtyn Hanna (age 18), a Senior at DeRidder High School, won third place with her performances of “Sanctuary” by Jean Valentine and “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron (George Gordon). Reigner Kane (age 16), a home-schooled junior student, was awarded second place for his recitations of “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaugnessy, and “Pentatina for Five Vowels” by Campbell McGrath. The first place spot was won by Mekenzie Peshoff (16), a sophomore at Barbe High School, for her dramatic performances of “Revenge” by Letitia Elizabeth Landon and “The Gaff” by C. K. Williams. The top three students were presented with a $25, $50, and $75 gift certificate (respectively) to Books-A-Million, from the Arts Council and the Louisiana Division of the Arts. Students Claire Buchanan (Barbe High School), Brenda Guzman (DeRidder High School), and Leah Worley (DeRidder High School) also competed.

Mekenzie, Reigner, and Ashtyn will continue on to the State Poetry Out Loud Competition in Baton Rouge in early March and compete to be the Louisiana State Champion who will travel to Washington, D.C. for the National Competition. Over $50,000 in stipends and awards are given at Nationals.

Local poet Sherry Perkins, a recent recipient of the 2015 Writers’ Program Scholarship from UCLA, and current member of Bayou Writer’s Group, closed out the evening by reciting several of her poems, and offering inspirational words to all students competing in the evening’s event.

Mekenzie Peshoff, Reigner Kane, and Ashtyn Hanna, First, Second, and Third Place (respectively) Regional Finalists.

Mekenzie Peshoff, Reigner Kane, and Ashtyn Hanna, First, Second, and Third Place (respectively) Regional Finalists.

Leah Worley reciting a poem while the judges look on.

Local Poet Sherry Perkins reciting original poetry

Local Poet Sherry Perkins reciting one of her original poetry pieces.


The Regional contestants with local poet Sherry Perkins. From L to R: Claire Buchanan, Brenda Guzman, Ashtyn Hanna, Sherry Perkins, Reigner Kane, Mekenzie Peshoff, Leah Worley