If you like the sound of poetry in your ears, get ready to be impressed when the top students from a dozen Sonoma County high schools come together next weekend to recite it.

The county’s Poetry Out Loud competition will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sunday Feb. 10 at the Glazer Center, 547 Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa. The event is free and open to the public.

I got a taste of what’s possible Thursday night, when I served as a judge for the school-level competition at Santa Rosa High. More than two-dozen students took to the stage to deliver words as art – surprising and delighting listeners with works from the likes of Dylan Thomas, Maya Angelou, T.S. Elliot and Emily Bronte. The students consistently presented with passion and poise, making each word count.

It’s all part of the national Poetry Out Loud recitation contest, which last year involved 365,000 students from around the country. The event was created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

Congratulation to Santa Rosa High’s winners: senior Izzy Castaldi, who took first place; freshman Ross Brady, who took second; and senior Ellie Paul, who came in third.

Castaldi will advance to the Feb. 10 event to compete with the winners from Analy, Cloverdale, Creekside, El Molino, Elsie Allen, Maria Carrillo, Montgomery, Piner, Rancho Cotate, Roseland University Prep and Sonoma Academy.

The county winner will advance to the state finals in March. The last stop is the National Finals, which will take place April 28-30 at George Washington University in Washington, DC. A total of $50,000 is awarded annually at the national event.

Below is a short video of last year’s national winner, Kristen Dupard. She gives a stunning performance, using her voice like a blues saxophone, evoking just the right sense from each word, each phrase.

— Robert Digitale