The first ever county finals for Poetry Out Loud took place Sunday, Feb. 26, at Plumas Arts Gallery in Quincy.
Alma Whitfield, a freshman at Portola High School, won first place. Colton Peters, a sophomore at Quincy High School, won second place. Sylvia Wood, a sophomore at Quincy High School, took third.
Whitfield will go on to two days of competition in Sacramento on March 12 and 13. She will receive a certificate of recognition from a California state representative at a dinner reception in the state capital.
If she wins the state title, Alma will be given $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to compete in Washington, D.C. on April 24 through 26.
Her school, Portola High School, would also be given $500 to purchase literary materials.
All contestants throughout the nation are judged using the same five criteria: physical presence, clarity of speech, appropriate presentation, evidence of understanding of the poem and overall performance.
Students choose a poem from an online anthology of 900 poems.
Contests start in individual classrooms and then move on to the school level. The Feb. 26 contest was for the winner at the county level.
Participating classrooms received a lot of guidance. Poetry Out Loud comes with its own curriculum and Margaret Garcia, local poet and POL consultant, held workshops in each participating school in the county.
Garcia also read two of her own poems from her book, “The Alzheimer’s Cul de Sac,” while the judges were tabulating the winners.
The California Arts Council funded POL statewide. Plumas Arts led the effort locally.
The National Endowment of the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, nonprofit publisher of Poetry magazine, started POL.
Cary Dingel, arts education program director for Plumas Arts, said, “I have wanted to bring Poetry Out Loud to Plumas County for many years.”
Alma Whitfield’s choice of poems
By Franz Wright
Think of a sheep
knitting a sweater;
think of your life
getting better and better.
Think of your cat
asleep in a tree;
think of that spot
where you once skinned your knee.
Think of a bird
that stands in your palm.
Try to remember
the Twenty-first Psalm.
Think of a big pink horse
think of a fly, and
close your mouth.
If you feel thirsty, then
drink from your cup.
The birds will keep singing
until they wake up.