Friday, March 29, 2013

St. Louis To Host Historic National Poetry Event
7th Grade Poetry Foundation’s Award Winners Read Poems for Live Audience April 17 for World To See
St. Louis, MO, March 28, 2013 – National Poetry Month will be celebrated in St. Louis with a world wide livestream of the 7th Grade Poetry Foundation’s  (7GP) annual event: Poetry On Their Terms.  The winning poets of this nationwide contest have the opportunity to read their compositions before a live audience on April 17th.   7GP will broadcast the event simultaneously online through their website  Viewers from anywhere in the world with an internet connection will be able to watch history being made.
On April 17th, a capacity crowd will join together at the St. Louis Public Library’s (SLPL) newly restored Central Library in Downtown St. Louis to hear 93 winning poems from across the country.  St. Louis Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed and SLPL Executive Director Waller McGuire will present awards and poets Cheryl Walker and Nicky Rainey will host the ceremony.  71 of the winning students will attend while those unable to attend will submit videos to be shown or have a guest reader do the honors.  The broadcast will be available to watch online beginning at 4:30pm CT on the 7GP website.  Winners will have their poems published in an anthology donated to their schools and public libraries and receive a cash prize.  Videos of past winners reading their poems are archived on the Foundation’s site.
This is the first year a poetry contest of this kind has been open to any 7th grader in the United States, with 92 schools from 7 states (MO, IL, NM, SD, NY, AR, TX) participating.  The St. Louis-based charity hosted the contest for their metro area for two previous years inviting every charter, faith-based, private and public school to enter.  “According to the Harvard Business Review blog, two of the top skills that businesses are looking for in employees are creative thinking and succinctly making a point.  This is what writing poetry trains you to do,” said Founder Aaron Williams.  “With statistics showing severely deficient writing and literacy skills in our youth, the Foundation’s mission is to create a writing revolution by giving all students the chance to have their poetic voices celebrated.”
Feedback from the schools have shown that this contest not only validates a student’s writing ability outside of the classroom, but provides a creative and mature outlet for their feelings and improves self-esteem.  Participating teachers told Williams that this contest has given them insight into their students not reflected in general class work.  Educators also found that students not normally interested in writing or recognized for academic achievements stepped up and demonstrated a natural talent for poetry writing.  “The Library is delighted to host 7GP. Though these poets are only in 7th grade, they have strong messages to share.  Anyone who comes to listen will be wowed by the depth of feeling, as well as their use of sophisticated poetic styles,” said Patty Carleton, Director of Youth Services for the St. Louis Public Library. 
Earlier this year, Williams donated a prized piece of Polish contemporary art by Wojciech Fangor that was auctioned by Sotheby’s New York .  Proceeds from the painting’s sale were matched by Williams and approximately $70,000 was awarded to 7GP.  He hopes that others will be inspired by his personal commitment to the Foundation’s cause and choose to make their own charitable donation.
The 7th Grade Poetry Foundation collaborates with educators to improve academic outcomes, and unites families and communities through an enhanced appreciation of poetry.  To carry out its mission, the charity sponsors this school-based poetry writing contest for students in the 7th grade — the year schools are required to teach poetry as part of the Common Core State Standard Initiative.  Students are given the freedom to write on any topic in any style of poetry.  Each school selects its own winner based solely on the written words.  School registration for their 2013-2014 event is a simple process and can be done on their website.

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