Janae Claxton (pictured above with her teacher, Robin Gramling), a junior at First Baptist School in Charleston, has been named the 2017 South Carolina Poetry Out Loud state champion. Claxton now advances to the national finals April 24-26 in Washington, D.C., where she competes for a $20,000 scholarship.
As the state champion, Claxton receives $200 and an all-expense paid trip to compete in the national finals. The First Baptist School library also receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.
Claxton was one of nine regional finalists who competed at the Columbia Museum of Art during the state finals on March 11. Each recited two poems they had memorized and perfected during school-wide and regional competitions that took place throughout the state from October to January, when more than 4,000 students began the competition. Three students were named state finalists and recited a third poem to determine the winner.
Competition judges were author and Poet Laureate for the city of Columbia Ed Madden, professor of English at USC; Darion McCloud, founder and creative director of the NiA Theatre Company and Story Squad; Theresa (T.J.) Wallace, assistant director at South Carolina Humanities; and Qiana Whitted, author and associate professor of English and African-American Studies at USC.
The South Carolina Arts Commission works with several partners to produce Poetry Out Loud. Statewide partners are the Columbia Museum of Art and South Carolina ETV Radio’s “Speaking of Schools” radio program, hosted by Doug Keel. Regional partners are Hub City Writers Project (Region 1); One Columbia, Richland Library and the South Carolina Center for Oral Narrative at the University of South Carolina Sumter (Region 2); and the College of Charleston School of Humanities and Social Sciences (Region 3).
Poetry Out Loud, a program created in 2005 by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through exploration, memorization and recitation. Students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage while gaining an appreciation of poetry. Last year more than 365,000 students nationwide competed.