ORHS student heads to national Poetry Out Loud final

Corbin Gomez is all smiles after his win at the California Poetry Out Loud contest. Photo by Brian Baer/California Arts Council 2012
Corbin Gomez is all smiles after his win at the California Poetry Out Loud contest. Photo by Brian Baer/California Arts Council 2012

Corbin Gomez, a senior at Oak Ridge in El Dorado County, took first place in the 2012 California state finals of Poetry Out Loud.

Mohammad Shehata, a senior at Clovis West High School in Fresno County, was the first runner-up and will represent California in the national finals if Gomez is unable to attend. Jonathon Bermea, a senior at Sonora High School in Tuolumne County, was the second runner-up.

The competition took place on the evening of Sunday, March 25, at the Sacramento Sheraton (Round 1), and the morning of Monday, March 26 (Rounds 2 and 3), on the state Senate floor. Video recordings of both days will be made available soon at www.calchannel.com.

“We have a very strong contender and compelling young voice to represent California in the national Poetry Out Loud finals this spring in Corbin Gomez,” said Craig Watson, director of the California Arts Council. “But all these students in the California state finals today are champions. This was my first Poetry Out Loud state finals since joining the Arts Council, and I was amazed at the level of talent in the room.”

Dana Gioia, the acclaimed poet who initiated Poetry Out Loud during his tenure as the former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, was on hand Sunday and Monday and spoke about the importance of the program and the arts in general.

“The main reason I took (the job as NEA Chair) was that everywhere I went in the United States as a poet, someone in the audience would tell me how the arts education program had been taken out of their school,” Gioia said. “It struck me as a disaster that in this country as we enter the 21st century — a time when America is not going to compete on cheap labor but on ingenuity, on creativeness, on innovation — we have taken imagination out of the educational system and are not properly educating our kids.

“The purpose of arts education is not to produce artists,” continued Gioia. “It is to produce complete human beings.”

This year marks the seventh time the California Arts Council has produced the annual competition — the largest of its kind in the nation, with more than 40,000 students in approximately 33 California counties participating. The program encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The California state finals is the culminating competition between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to the spelling bee).

“Poetry Out Loud facilitates the ability of an ordinary person like me to experience something truly extraordinary through the art of poetry recitation,” said Gomez.

Gomez, as the California Poetry Out Loud champion, receives $200 from the National Endowment for the Arts. He will go on to compete in Washington, D.C., in April and his school will receive $500 for books. Shehata, as the runner-up, receives $100 from the NEA, and $200 for books at his school.

The state’s Poetry Out Loud program, sponsored by the Target Corporation, is directed by the California Arts Council,and was initiated by the NEA and the Poetry Foundation. Local arts agencies and school districts conduct the program on the county level.

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Posted by on Mar 29 2012.
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