Tonight: Poetry Out Loud gets proud in Lakewood

On a Tuesday night on the cusp of spring, when a young man's fancy turns and the cruelest month looms just days away, you could do worse than head to Lakewood to hear great verse declaimed at the seventh annual Poetry Out Loud state finals.

Declaimed, emoted, and embraced -- by high school students from across Colorado, vying to represent their school (and favorite poets) at a national competition in a few weeks in Washington, D.C., where the winner walks away with $20,000.

The contest is an anomaly in a world of slam-offs and open mic nights -- where it's often the case that (as a famous poet once said) the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity. Poetry Out Loud participants are required to recite two classic poems from memory, one of which has to be from the nineteenth century or earlier. It's a great way to encourage students and their audience to reconnect with the beauty of the language and the power of the spoken word.

Last year's state winner, Thornton High's Samuel Opoku -- who finished fourth in the national finals -- will be among the verse lovers competing tonight before a distinguished panel of judges and emcee David Mason, Colorado's poet laureate. The event has grown steadily in popularity, and this year's field is expected to be a third larger than last year's.

It all goes down at the Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 South Allison Parkway (west of the Belmar shopping center), starting at 6 p.m. As the bard Fonzi once put it, be there or be square.

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