Santa Fe, NM – SethWilson (cq) Gray, a sophomore at V. Sue Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, will represent New Mexico in the national finals of Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest April 28-30 in Washington DC.
Gray, 16, beat out ten other finalists on Sunday, March 3, in the 8th Annual New Mexico State Finals of Poetry Out Loud, sponsored by New Mexico Arts, the state arts agency and a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs.
Wilson receives $200 and an all-expense paid trip with chaperone to Washington DC to represent New Mexico at the national finals.  His school will receive a $500 stipend to purchase poetry books for the school library.
Loie Fecteau, executive director of New Mexico Arts, read a letter (please see attached) to participants from Governor Susana Martinez.  “This is an exciting contest that highlights New Mexico’s best young talent and I applaud all of today’s participants for showcasing their hard work,” Martinez said in the letter. “Not only does Poetry Out Loud promote our young writers and poets to develop their skills, it also helps young New Mexicans build self-confidence and master public speaking.” Fecteau noted that Governor Martinez also signed certificates acknowledging all 11 state finalists who took part in Sunday’s Poetry Out Loud State Championship.
Other finalists who participated included runner-up A.J. Rascon, La Cueva High School, Albuquerque; Kira Pelowitz, Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science at UNM, Albuquerque; Rachel Hipple, Bosque School, Albuquerque; Justin Cordova, Public Academy for Performing Arts, Albuquerque; Ally Garcia, Southwest Secondary Learning Center, Albuquerque; Cheyenne Bilbrey, Bloomfield High School, Bloomfield; James Thompson, Carlsbad High School, Carlsbad; Ethan Wertz, Deming High School, Deming; Chloe Rae Hammock, Oñate High School, Las Cruces; and, Marisa McCarty, Raton High School, Raton.
“We had over 1,300 students and 25 teachers in New Mexico take part in Poetry Out Loud at the school level this year from across New Mexico,” Fecteau said. “All of our student competitors did a great job”
The state final was sponsored in part by Albertsons, Axle Contemporary Press, CG Higgins Confections, New Mexico Museum of Art, The Chocolatesmith, Tres Chicas Books, Waterboyz, and Whole Foods.
Poetry Out Loud seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by building on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the popularity of rap music.  Through Poetry Out Loud, students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.  The contest also seeks to address decreasing reading rates among young people, as cited in a recent NEA study To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence.  Now in its eighth year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud has inspired hundreds of thousands of high school students to discover classic and contemporary poetry.
“Poetry Out Loud encourages students to begin a love affair with words, ideas, and imagination that will inspire them throughout their academic journeys and their careers,” said Rocco Landesman, recent chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance and is the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation.  New Mexico students were among the approximately 400,000 students nationwide who took part this year at the classroom level.
The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will take place in Washington DC at the Lisner Auditorium on the campus of The George Washington University on April 29 and 30.  On April 29, students grouped in three geographic regions will compete in semifinal competitions.  Nine students (three from each region) will advance to compete in the National Finals on April 30.  Judges will evaluate each student performance on criteria including physical presence, articulation, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty, and accuracy.  Both events are free and open to the public.
New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, is the state arts agency.  New Mexico Arts administers the state’s One Percent for Public Art program, awards grants to nonprofit organizations for arts and cultural programs in their communities across the state, and provides technical assistance and educational opportunities for organizations, artists, and arts educators throughout New Mexico.
The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts – both new and established – bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities and military bases.
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture.  It has embarked on an ambitious plan to bring the best poetry before the largest possible audience.

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