Poetry Out Loud National Finals

<< All Events Start: Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 07:00 pm
End: Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 09:00 pm
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Who will be named the 2021 Poetry Out Loud Champion and receive a $20,000 prize? Out of 55 state and jurisdictional champions who competed in the national semifinals, nine high school students are advancing to the Poetry Out Loud national finals, which will be webcast on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. ET at arts.gov/poetry-out-loud. Actor and writer Shaun Taylor-Corbett will host an evening of recitations by the top nine finalists, with live interviews with the students and the announcement of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

The 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Finalists are:

  • Alabama Champion Soojin Park (Auburn High School)
  • Colorado  Champion Aidyn Reid (Fountain Valley School)
  • Nebraska Champion Alexandra Rose Zaleski (VJ and Angela Skutt Catholic High School)
  • South Dakota Champion Rahele Megosha (Washington High School)
  • Tennessee Champion Kendall Grimes (Battle Ground Academy)
  • Texas Champion Samuel Eluemunoh (Saint Mark's School of Texas)
  • U.S. Virgin Islands Champion Kaden A. Hughes (Antilles School)
  • Vermont Champion Irén Hangen Vázquez (Burr and Burton Academy)
  • West Virginia Champion Ben Long (Notre Dame High School)

Photos and videos of these students are available for media use. To request an interview with one of these students, please email Liz Auclair at auclaire@arts.gov.

The 2021 Poetry Out Loud national finals will take place virtually with each finalist submitting in advance video recordings of their recitations—selected from an anthology of more than 1,100 classic and contemporary poems—which will be part of the May 27 webcast. Judges will review and score the recitations based on criteria including physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy.

The 2021 national finals judges are: poet and executive director of Kundiman Cathy Linh Che; poet and NEA Creative Writing Fellow Eduardo C. Corral; poet, educator, and organizer Gabriel Cortez; scriptwriter, breakbeat poet, educator, and director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College Idris Goodwin; director and host of Poetry in America, director of Verse Video Education, and Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University Elisa New, and actor and 2007 Poetry Out Loud national runner-up Branden Wellington.

A total of $50,000 in awards and school or organizational stipends will be given at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, including a $20,000 award for the National Champion, $10,000 for 2nd place, $5,000 for 3rd place, and $1,000 for 4th–9th places. The representing schools/organizations of each of the top nine finalists receive $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. There was one honorable mention announced on May 2 in each of three national semifinals competitions—Lilian Myers (New Jersey), Morgan Love (Mississippi),  and Audrey-Rose Sevaaaetasi (American Samoa). Those students do not advance to the May 27 finals, but will each receive a $1,000 cash award and a $500 stipend for their school or organization. The Poetry Foundation provides and administers all aspects of the monetary prizes awarded for Poetry Out Loud.

The Poetry Out Loud national finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts. Closed captioning and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation will be provided for the Poetry Out Loud national finals.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using #POL21 and #IAmPoetryOutLoud and follow the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation at @PoetryOutLoud, @NEAArts, and @PoetryFound.

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