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Kentucky Arts Council     Kentucky.gov

Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet

March 1, 2016
Media Contact: Tom Musgrave
Communications Director
502-564-3757, ext. 489

Elizabethtown High School senior wins state
Poetry Out Loud competition, advances to
national championship in May

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Elizabethtown High School senior Naomi Cliett is Kentucky’s 2016 Poetry Out Loud state champion.

Cliett emerged at the top of a field of 17 competitors from around the Commonwealth on Feb. 23 at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort. Cliett will advance to the Poetry Out Loud national competition May 2-4 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation contest sponsored by the Kentucky Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Each student is judged on the recitation of two poems, which are selected by the students and their teachers from a preapproved list of works. Five students were selected to advance to the third and final round, where they recited another prepared poem.

Cliett advanced to the final round based on her recitations of “Movement Song” by Audre Lourde and “I Find no Peace” by Thomas Wyatt in rounds one and two, respectively. In the final round, Cliett clinched the state championship with her recitation of “Good People” by W.S. Merwin.

“It was really dramatic,” she said of her reaction to winning the state championship. “I couldn’t believe it. It was amazing.”

Poems must be memorized with the student’s interpretation also factored into the final score. Those elements places much demand on the competitors as they prepare.

“The memorizing was pretty easy,” Cliett said. “Most of the time I spent on putting the correct inflection in everything and making it mean something, not just to the audience, but to myself.

“I like poetry that speaks a lot and I think that comes through in the last poem I chose (‘Good People’). It’s more conversational, and I like to have that aspect.”

Cliett’s trip to Washington, D.C. will be her first to the nation’s capital, and she is looking forward to representing Kentucky in national competition.

“I know I’m going to have a lot of fun.”

Runner-up was Dominique Mims, a Betsy Layne High School senior, who recited “Solitude” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, in the final round. This was Betsy Layne’s first year in Poetry Out Loud, and Mims was proud to represent her school.

“Our competition was fierce. We had some really good competitors there,” Mims said. “To be able to win there and come here was really special.”

The three other finalists were:

  • Sierra DeShane, Allen County/Scottsville High School, Scottsville
  • Cassandra Fultz, Boyd County High School, Ashland
  • Hollie Morse, George Rogers Clark High School, Winchester

“All of our school champions and the five finalists delivered stellar interpretations,” said Lori Meadows, arts council executive director. “We certainly wish Naomi the best of luck in Washington, D.C., in April. I know she will represent the Commonwealth with pride and distinction.”

In addition to an all-expense paid trip for herself and a chaperone to the national finals, Cliett will receive $200, and her school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. As runner-up, Mims will receive $100, and her school will receive a $200 stipend.

Students who competed in rounds one and two were:

  • Katelyn Bratcher, Meade County High School, Brandenburg
  • Haley Bryan, Grant County High School, Dry Ridge
  • Frances Dougherty, Central Hardin High School, Cecilia
  • Jasmine Humphrey, McCracken County High School, Paducah
  • Shay Jefferson, Butler Traditional High School, Louisville
  • Julia Martinez, Western Hills High School, Frankfort
  • Haley May, Conner High School, Hebron
  • Audrie Lamb, Graves County High School, Mayfield
  • Taryn Sick, Pike County Central High School, Pikeville
  • Kaleb Trent, Hart County High School, Munfordville
  • Connor Wagner, West Carter High School, Olive Hill
  • William Luke Vance, Leslie County High School, Hyden

The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, fosters environments for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2016 the arts council celebrates the 50th anniversary of its establishment by the Kentucky General Assembly.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Click on thumbnail image to download a print-quality image.

Naomi Cliett
Photo caption 1:
Naomi Cliett, a senior at Elizabethtown High School, was the winner of the Poetry Out Loud state championship Feb. 23 at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort. She will represent Kentucky in May at the Poetry Out Loud national championship in Washington, D.C.
Gabby Thompson and Cheyenne Carter
Photo caption 2:
Seventeen Kentucky high school students competed Feb. 23 in the Poetry Out Loud state championship in Frankfort. From left, Kyle Lee, Kentucky Department of Education Division of Arts and Humanities; state champion Naomi Cliett, Elizabethtown High School; state runner-up Dominique Mims, Betsy Layne High School; and Lori Meadows, Kentucky Arts Council executive director.

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