Poetry Out Loud cometh

The Mid-Columbia Literary Festival is a big deal, no matter what your age, but this year it becomes an even bigger deal for youngsters.

Thanks to the driving force of Columbia Basin College's Gwen James, a poet and assistant professor in the English Department, this year we'll add the Poetry Out Loud recitation competition to the mix.

The program, begun as a pilot project in Washington, D.C., and Chicago in 2004, has grown to include hundreds of thousands of students across the country. The contest is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, plus arts commissions in all 50 states.

Prizes totaling more than $100,000 are awarded at the state and national competitions each year.

What is Poetry Out Loud? Well, it's not a shouting contest.

Students recite from memory one or more pieces from a list of contemporary and classical poems created by Poetry Out Loud.

They are evaluated in detail and on their overall performance.

Poetry Out Loud is open to all high school students in grades 9-12 where the school participates.

Judging by the turnout, the students love it. More than 800 students from five high schools in our region participated in Poetry Out Loud this year.

Ten students from area high schools will compete Tuesday at the CBC Theatre for the chance to go to the state finals.

They are: Delta High School -- Annabeth Guzman and Haley Johnson; DeSales Catholic High School (Walla Walla) -- Dani Hall and Lauren McCaw; Kamiakin High School -- Chelsea Kupitz and Araceli Leal; Kennewick High School -- Liliana Blanco and Prescott Davis; and Kiona Benton High School -- Joel Campbell and Martha Nunez.

These students are taking this competition very seriously and have worked hard to get this far.

Seating at the CBC Theatre is limited, so get there early. The competition begins at 7 p.m.