PIQUA — Piqua Arts Council hosted the West Central Regional Final of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Poetry Out Loud Competition on Thursday, Feb. 11 at Edison State Community College.
As part of the competition students from four of the region’s high schools participated in reading poems. Competing were Daniel Nauseef from Chaminade Julienne High School, Hibachi Loukssi from Xenia High School, Lexi Gastelu from Piqua High School and Abigail Lay from Springfield Clark Career and Technical College. The students competed in two rounds of poetry recitation with the judges for the evening also presenting.
Judges for the evening were Leroy Bean, Bridget Flaherty, Steven Gregory and Nate Funderburg. Leroy Bean is an author, poet, and co-founder of Underdog Academy and Baldwin Cafe Bookstore in Dayton. For four years, he has taught an original creative writing workshop suitable for elementary to adult students for the purpose of healing, emotional intelligence, development of one’s writing process and exercise for the creative muscle.
Bridget Flaherty is an award-winning storyteller and founder of LORE, where she teaches the art of storytelling to businesses who want to authentically connect with their clients and employees and individuals who want to use their voice and share their story. Flaherty has coached business leaders, politicians, keynote speakers, students and individuals from all walks of life to craft a better story. She also provides one-on-one life coaching for people who are stuck with big problems or big ideas to get unstuck and begin actively writing new chapters of their lives.
Steven Gregory is a musician from Dayton. He is also a social worker and adjunct professor of sociology. He performs regularly with sax player Cody Curtis. Gregory has a BA in Psychology from Wilmington College, an MA in Applied Behavioral Science from Wright State and is currently working on a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health at Wright State. Gregory has been performing for over 15 years and has even spent 11 days on tour in England.
Nate Funderburg is a lifelong resident of Piqua. After graduating Piqua High School, Funderburg graduated cum laude from Wright State University with a degree in English. He attended law school at the University of Dayton School of Law and graduated magna cum laude in 2006 after serving on the law review. Funderburg was admitted to the Ohio bar in November 2006, and the bar of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in December of the same year. He spent tow years working for a local law firm before joining McCulloch, Felger, Fite and Gutmann in October of 2008.
The competition started with emcee Joe Shaffer welcoming the guests. Shaffer gave an overview of the competition and then welcomed Jordan Knepper, Executive Director of the Piqua Arts Council to the stage, where he introduced the judges. Following their introduction, Bean started the night by reciting an original poem.
The student portion of the competition began with Nauseef reciting Abandoned Farmhouse by Ted Kooser. After Nauseef, Loukssi presented I Am Offering This Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca. Gastelu went third with A January Dandelion by George Marion McClellan and the first round closed out with Lay presenting To be of use by Marge Piercy.
Before an intermission, Flaherty presented a story for the audience.
Following the intermission, Gregory got the audience energized by playing three songs.
After Gregory’s performance, round two of the competition kicked off with students participating in the same order as before. Nauseef led off with Football by Louis Jenkins. Following that was Loukssi with The Ocean by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Gastelu performed Fate by Carolyn Wells and the second round closed out with Lay performing I Am Trying to Break Your Heart by Kevin Young.
Knepper came back to the stage to thank the Ohio Arts Council and Polysource for sponsoring the event. In addition to the two event sponsors gift bag sponsors were, Winans Chocolates and Coffee, Scott’s Family McDonalds, Jay & Mary’s Bookstore, Elite Etc. And Premier Health Upper Valley Medical Center.
The winner of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud West Central Regional Final was Gastelu, from Piqua. She will go on to the state final on March 5, which will be held virtually. Replays of the competition will be posted shortly on the Piqua Arts Council’s YouTube station and shared on the Piqua Arts Council’s Facebook page.