Finalist for the first annual Poetry Out Loud contest held in Plumas County. The contest took place at Plumas Arts Gallery in Quincy on Feb. 26. From left: Sylvia Wood, Quincy High School (third place); Alma Whitfield, Portola High School (first place); Theo Moresi, Quincy High School; Allie Adcock, Indian Valley Academy; Peyton Working, Indian Valley Academy and Colton Peters, Quincy High School (second place). Photos by Steve Wathen

Alma Whitfield wins first annual Poetry Out Loud contest

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.

Margaret Garcia, local published poet, reads two of her poems near the end of the first Poetry Out Loud contest held in Plumas County on Feb. 26.

The rules

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.

Sponsors

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

“Auto-Lullaby

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

galloping south;

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.