Tampa student wins Florida’s Poetry Out Loud contest

Poetry Out Loud
Zhaedyn Hodge Sigars performed works by W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Laurence Dunbar at the Florida Finals.

Zhaedyn Hodge Sigars, a junior at Howard W. Blake Fine Arts Magnet High School in Tampa, is the state champion of Florida’s Poetry Out Loud competition. He will represent Florida in the national competition on April 30 in Washington D.C.

Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation competition for high school students. The event is held annually around the country.

The Florida Humanities Council is the principal facilitator of the event in Florida with support from the Division of Cultural Affairs, Florida Department of State, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation.

Over 10,000 students participate in school competitions. School champions are then invited to the state finals.

Poetry of legends

This year’s competition took place at the University of South St. Petersburg on March 2.

Casey Curry, a creative writing and journalism teacher at Blake High School, served as Sigar’s teacher and coach in preparation for the competition.

He performed the poems “Discrimination” by Kenneth Rexroth; “The Song of the Smoke” by W.E.B. Du Bois and “The Paradox” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Each student’s performance is evaluated on their physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, and their evidence of understanding the selected poem.

Sigars enjoys a range of creative hobbies, including drawing, painting, and writing poetry and song lyrics. He enjoys activities which center on youth ministry outreach.

After graduating from high school, he plans to attend Howard, Brown, or Emory universities and major in English, communications or creative writing.

Austin Stein, a sophomore at North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, placed second in the Florida Finals. Joey Chen, a sophomore at the Pine View School for the Gifted in Osprey, placed third.

Performance time

Additional information about the Florida Finals can be found at floridahumanities.org/poetry. Information on the national competition can be found at poetryoutloud.org.

The 2019 National Finals will be held April 30-May 1 at the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University. The event will be streamed live on the Poetry Out Loud website.

Sigars will perform during the Region 2 time block, which is from 1 to 4 p.m.

The Florida Humanities Council, established in 1973, uses the disciplines of the humanities to develop public programs and resources that explore Florida’s history, literary and artistic traditions, cultural values, and ethics.


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