CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Chris Sarandon is back for his fifth year hosting the state's Poetry Out Loud competition."I wouldn't miss it for the world," he said. "Unless I'm working, I'll be there. It's an extraordinary event."Poetry is important to him; he called the poetry classes he took at West Virginia University among the most rewarding classes he had. He likes Poetry Out Loud because it fosters an interest in poetry, which he said had fallen by the wayside for a while."Poetry is such a springboard to the imagination," he said. "It's a fertile way of stirring the imagination that, in the world of television and video games and movies, we don't really have anymore. It's an oral art, a reading art, in the sense that you have to read it and/or recite it to have its full value become manifest."
Throughout his years hosting, he said, the students have become more proficient in their recitations. Their poems also have gotten better and more interesting. Plus, he's seen more young men competing. Last year, South Charleston High School's Anthony Braxton won, the first male to do so."My first year, it was mostly young women," Sarandon recalled. "Now, it's evened out -- or at least gotten closer to even - which, to me, is a great advance in the terms of the sensibility of the kids doing it. It's kind of a cool thing to do now."