Students Are Gearing Up For A National Spoken Word Event

Feb 15, 2021

National Poetry Month isn’t until April but some Rockford high school students are preparing now for an upcoming spoken word showdown. 

Poetry Out Loud is a competition that takes place for high school students across the country. This year young poets at Jefferson High School are participating.  

Kate Kilgore is the education and community engagement director at the Rockford Area Arts Council. She’s also the northern Illinois regional coordinator for Poetry Out Loud. She said the school has been involved with the competition for more than 10 years.  

“The students who sign up to be in this competition are the best of the best,” she said. “They work so long and so hard at having the poem really come alive.” 

Students select the works of other poets from an online poetry anthology and memorize it for the event.  

“So, the competition starts in the classroom level where the teacher will set up to have their students memorize work on poems and then come to the competition,” Kilgore explained. 

Kilgore said she hopes the recent performances by Amanda Gorman give these young creatives a thrill and inspire them to enter the competition. 

The regional contest takes place virtually Feb. 16, but the public won’t be able to see it until this spring on the Arts Council’s website. Rockford’s poet laureate Christine Swanberg and youth poet laureate Jocelyn Kuntz will speak at the regional event. 

The top two poets will continue to a statewide competition. The state champion will go on to compete in national finals. 

  •  Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.