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Ben Long, Notre Dame High School senior, winner of the West Virginia State Poetry Out Loud Finals.
Ben Long, Notre Dame High School senior, winner of the West Virginia State Poetry Out Loud Finals, addressed the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur earlier this month.

Local student to represent West Virginia in Poetry Out Loud National Finals on May 27

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Notre Dame High School student Ben Long will represent West Virginia at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, which will be webcast on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 7 p.m. at arts.gov/poetry-out-loud. Actor and writer Shaun Taylor-Corbett will host an evening of recitations by the top nine finalists, with live interviews with the students and the announcement of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion. 

Long won the West Virginia Poetry Out Loud championship in March, with his video recitations of Istanbul 1983 by Sheila Black, An Autumn Sunset by Edith Wharton, and A Blessing by James Wright. As West Virginia’s champion, Long represented the state at the National Poetry Out Loud Semifinals on May 2, 2021. Out of 55 state and jurisdictional champions who competed in the national semifinals, Long was named one of only nine high school students who will compete in the National Finals.

The 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Finals will take place virtually with each finalist submitting video recordings of their recitations – selected from an anthology of more than 1,100 classic and contemporary poems – which will be part of the May 27 webcast. Judges will review and score the recitations based on criteria, including physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance and accuracy.

A total of $50,000 in awards and school or organizational stipends will be given at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, including a $20,000 award for the National Champion, $10,000 for 2nd place, $5,000 for 3rd place, and $1,000 for 4th – 9th places. The representing schools of each of the nine finalists receive $500 for the purchase of poetry materials.

The Poetry Out Loud program begins at the local level with students participating in school-based and organization-based contests. The winners of those competitions are eligible to participate in the state finals. This year 20 West Virginia high school champions submitted recitation videos which were evaluated by a team of judges including writer and performer Colleen Anderson; Amy Alvarez, a poet and professor at West Virginia University; Marc Harshman, the state’s poet laureate; novelist and educator Rajia Hassib; and Dr. Joel Peckham, a poet and professor at Marshall University.

Ben Long, a senior from The Performing Arts Conservatory at Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg, was named state champion during this year’s first-ever West Virginia Poetry Out Loud Video Showcase. Jason Young coordinates the Poetry Out Loud program at Notre Dame. Dailey Ward, a Wheeling Park High School senior, was the state runner up. The school’s Poetry Out Loud coordinator is Gail Adams. Both students and their schools will receive cash prizes as well as handmade trophies created by Matt Thomas of Gilmer County.

Rounding out the state’s top five finalists were Natalea Johnson of Spring Mills High School, Morgan Sprouse representing the Vintage Theater Company, and Blaine Yates of Greenbrier East High School.

A complete list of West Virginia state finalists and their schools is attached.

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and state arts agencies, including the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. This national arts education program encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. 

For more information about West Virginia’s Poetry Out Loud program, contact Jim Wolfe, Poetry Out Loud state coordinator, at (304) 558-0240 or james.d.wolfe@wv.gov.


  • Lily Regan – Cabell Midland High School         
  • Ashley Miller – Capital High School       
  • Jessica Tenney – George Washington High School       
  • Blaine Yates – Greenbrier East High School (Top Five)
  • Sophie Eastone – Huntington High School        
  • Bianca Jamen – Lewis County High School        
  • Rosey Gillette – Logan High School        
  • Sammy Goddard – Magnolia High School         
  • Hunter Shaffer – Nicholas County High School
  • Ben Long – Notre Dame High School (State Champion)
  • Carly Harper – Roane County High School       
  • Alissa Holstein – Scott High School         
  • Makayla Schrader – Shady Spring High School
  • Izzy Marino – South Charleston High School    
  • Natalea Johnson – Spring Mills High School (Top Five)
  • Shyanne Moore – Valley High School (Wetzel) 
  • Morgan Sprouse – Vintage Theater Company (Top Five)
  • Thomas Toler – Westside High School    
  • Dailey Ward – Wheeling Park High School (Runner-Up)
  • Katie Lawrence – Woodrow Wilson High School

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