For Immediate Release

Chicago Teen Wins Regional National Poetry Recitation Contest

May 1, 2005

Chicago—Devin Kenny won the Chicago regional finals of the National Poetry Recitation Contest for his rendering of Gertrude Stein's "Susie Asado" at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on April 11th. Kenny, a senior at Walter Payton College Prep, received the $1,000 grand prize and his school received $2,000 from The Poetry Foundation. Two runners up won $500 prizes and $1,000 checks for their schools: Damien Lee, a freshman at Chicago Military Academy - Bronzeville, recited Carl Sandburg's "Chicago" and Patrick Smith from Kenwood Academy performed Langston Hughes' "Dream Deferred."

The National Poetry Recitation Contest is a pilot program co-sponsored by The Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Each contestant received two anthologies from which they were asked to memorize poems, as well as a CD with instructions and sample recitations by well-known actors and poets. The students were judged on accuracy, eye contact, volume, and understanding of the poem.

Over 100 semi-finalists from 40 Chicago schools competed in the afternoon preliminaries on April 11th. 24 finalists made it to the Shakespeare stage. In addition to the winners, they were: Tiara Patterson (Sullivan High School), Danielle Washington (Chicago Discovery Academy), Thaddeus Walls (Dunbar), Jheri Johnson (Chicago Vocational), Stephen Garrett (CICS-Longwood), Petra Kelly (Lincoln Park HS), Sally Watts (William Howard Taft), Kristal Clark (Calumet Academic Career Academy), Andrea Velazquez (CMA-Bronzeville), Mauriana Jones (Manley), Samreen Iqbal (Senn High School), Brittany Pitman (School of the Arts, South Shore), Sima Cunningham (Whitney Young), Venice Hatcher (Kenwood Academy), Cheri Kilpatrick (Englewood), Kenneth Nole (Gage Park High School), Ekaterine Baharopoulo (CICS Northtown Academy), Jacqueline Bernardo (Senn High School), Tiffany Hill (Calumet Academic Career Academy), Silvia Gonzales (Farragut C.A.), and Christopher McClain (Chicago HS for Agricultural Science).

The judges for the finals were: Calvin Forbes, Director of the Creative Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute: Corinne Morrissey, President of the Union League Civic and Arts Foundation; poet and teacher David Hernandez; writer Kelly Lewis; Christina Pugh, poet and assistant professor at Northwestern; Nora Brooks Blakely, producer and artistic director of Chocolate Chips Theater; and Bernard Sahlins, co-founder of The Second City.

Twenty student apprentices in the After School Matters program at Collins High School helped organize and publicize the contest under the direction of Barbara Buell and instructors Danielle Chapman and Rhonda Gholston.

"Learning to recite poetry invites personal growth," Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts said. "Much of the future success of students will depend on how well they present themselves in public. Whether talking to one person or many, public speaking is a skill people use every day in both the workplace and the community."

"The National Poetry Recitation Contest brings new energy to an ancient art by returning it to the classrooms of America," John Barr, president of The Poetry Foundation, said. "The public recitation of great poetry is a way to honor the speaker, the poem, and the audience all at once."

The Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts will evaluate the Chicago and Washington, DC pilot programs. The resulting standards-based curriculum will be made available to high school students nationwide in 2006.

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After School Matters (ASM) is a non-profit organization that partners with the City of Chicago, the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District, and the Chicago Public Library to expand out-of-school opportunities for Chicago teens. Working together, these institutions help to revitalize Chicago neighborhoods and enrich the lives of teens around the city.

Through ASM programs, Chicago teens can safely take part in activities that offer positive relationships, skills that translate to the workplace, and exposure to career and educational opportunities both in their neighborhoods and throughout the city. Current programs focus on the arts, sports, technology, and communications. Further information is available at www.afterschoolmatters.org.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) is one of the fastest-growing producing and presenting organizations in America today. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, CST has achieved its reputation for consistently high production values and artistic standards. In addition to its acclaimed productions of William Shakespeare's canon, CST presents work of the highest quality by some of the most distinguished American and international playwrights and directors. Reaching out to young audiences has been integral to the mission of CST since its inception. Team Shakespeare, CST's arts-in-education program, reached 500,000 students in its first decade of serving nearly 50,000 students and teachers annually. On-line at www.chicagoshakes.com.


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is the largest annual funder of the arts in the United States. An independent federal agency, the NEA is the official arts organization of the United States government. It 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. Its vision is a nation in which artistic excellence is celebrated, supported, and available to all Americans. For further information visit www.nea.gov.

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. In the coming year, the Foundation will sponsor a major new poetry website, several prizes, and an unprecedented study to understand poetry's place in American culture.

Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. Harriet Monroe's "Open Door" policy, set forth in Volume I of the magazine, remains the most succinct statement of Poetry's mission: to print the best poetry written today, in whatever style, genre, or approach. The magazine established its reputation early by publishing the first important poems of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, H. D., William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, and other now-classic authors. In succeeding decades it has presented—often for the first time—works by virtually every significant poet of the 20th century.

Poetry has always been independent, unaffiliated with any institution or university—or with any single poetic or critical movement or aesthetic school. It continues to print the major English-speaking poets, while presenting emerging talents, in all their variety. In recent years, more than a third of the authors published in the magazine have been young writers appearing for the first time. On average, the magazine receives over 90,000 submissions per year from around the world. Visit www.poetrymagazine.org.
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