Harron Atkins, a senior at Cass Technical High School, won the 2011 Poetry Out Loud state championship in East Lansing. Atkins won out against 30 other contestants from across Michigan. He will receive a $200 cash award and an all expense paid trip to the national finals in Washington, D.C., April 27–29.
Cass Technical will also receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. Atkins is the second student from Cass Tech to win the state championship. Daniel Bellomy was the 2009 champion.
“I’ve always loved poetry,” Atkins said. “I have a certain respect for the written word, but bringing poetry to life in this way and having young people do it, you realize there are people who love poetry as much as you do and love the arts as much as you do and are your age is amazing.”
This year’s competition was held at the Fairchild Theatre on the campus of Michigan State University. Each student recited two poems; the top four students competed in a final, championship round. The students competing in the championship round recited a third poem. Each student’s performance was judged on six categories: physical presence, voice and articulation, appropriateness of dramatization, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding and overall performance,
The poems recited by Atkins were:
- “A Song of Soweto” by June Jordan
- “Thou Art My Lute” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
- “The Song of Smoke by W.E.B. DuBois.
Atkins gave a powerful rendition of DuBois’ poem in the final round with the other three finalists.
“It’s called ‘A Song of Smoke” and smoke rises and to me it’s about rising above and it has a build to it,” Atkins said. “I’m from Detroit and it’s the best place in the world right now, but this about rising above and being the best you can be.”
Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Quishanna Coleman of Martin Luther King High School also represented DPS in the competition.