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Local Poetry Out Loud champion

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Mar 11 2013 02:54:12 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 07 2013 09:09:36 PM CST

Tennessee's state Poetry Out Loud champion comes from right here in the Tri-Cities.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. -

Whether you know it or not you love poetry. You've loved it since you were a small child. Every child loves a nursery rhyme, and guess what? It's poetry.

One school in our region has used that long standing love of poetry and incorporated into their curriculum and it's produced this years Tennessee champion in the Poetry Out Loud competition.

Tennessee's state Poetry Out Loud champion, Whitney Baxter, recites E.E. Cummings. "I carry your heart with me, I carry it in," to some of her classmates at Providence Academy.

She will soon be reciting on the national level in Washington later this year. Her emphasis is on drama but her school got her interested in poetry out loud a couple of years back.

"I really hadn't thought of reciting poetry out loud until sophomore year when it became integrated into our school curriculum through the drama program," Whitney said.

"If you think about young children, they love nursery rhymes, they love cutlets, they love poetry. Years ago I challenged the faculty where I was teaching and principal at the time, if the students don't love poetry it's because we have taken away that love," adds Beverly White, curriculum coordinator.

Take that love and add acting and speaking abilities and you've described this years state champion. "For me being the actor that I am, it becomes an art, it becomes a craft to me when I actually start looking at it, breaking it down, reading over it verbally. That's when for me the magic starts to happen," Whitney says.

And even with classmates she makes the connection, whether its a love poem or something more dark; it's in presentation but not all. "They judge that difficulty and also how much you understand the poem. So they can tell if you don't understand what your poem is saying then you won't get through. You can fake it till you make it but they can usually understand who really gets the poem and who doesn't," she said.

And she gets it, and she's taking those talents to Washington to represent Tennessee.