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NELA Poetry Out Loud Competition builds confidence and communication skills

Poetry Out Loud
Poetry Out Loud

The Northeast Louisiana Arts Council is hosting the regional Poetry Out Loud Competition Saturday, February 18 at 10 a.m. at the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts educational program that gives high school students and educators across the country the opportunity to engage in competitions that inspire the study of poetry. The program aspires to build self-confidence, strengthen public speaking skills and educate participants about the history of poetry.

Northeast Louisiana Arts Council Community Development Coordinator Abigail Handy-Berry explains the reason for Poetry Out Loud, "The competition teaches about having a certain level of confidence. I have a 15-year old, and getting on stage is not something she would naturally do. It's also about being involved in something — not football, not basketball, but involved in the literary arts. This gives students who are involved in the literary arts a chance to shine."

This gives students who are involved in the literary arts a chance to shine.

This gives students who are involved in the literary arts a chance to shineLocally, six students have been selected from school competitions at Wossman High School, Neville High School, and Sterlington High School.

The champion and runner-up from each school will compete on Saturday in two rounds. Students will recite two memorized poems which they selected from the master Poetry Out Loud anthology online.

After judging, two winners will be chosen to compete at the state level in Opelousas in March.

Encouraging families to come see the competition and get involved, Handy-Berry says, "Give it a try. Last year, we had three phenomenal young ladies. None of them had ever done anything like this before. It was new for all of them, and they were excited. Were they nervous? Yes, they were nervous. But you don't know unless you try. You might actually love it."

The Northeast Louisiana Arts Council will send two students to the state finals on March 4 in Opelousas, LA at the Delta Grand Theatre.

Winners from the state competition will travel to Washington, DC for the national competition.

More information about Poetry Out Loud and local competitions for 2023-24 is available by emailing More information about the national competition is at

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