Poetry Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts Announce Anita Norman as 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Champion

High school student receives $20,000 award in national poetry recitation contest

May 4, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC — From a competitive field of 365,000 students nationwide, Anita Norman, a student at Arlington High School in Arlington, Tennessee, won the title of 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Champion at the National Finals held in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. With this achievement, Norman received a $20,000 award and her high school received a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. 

The Poetry Out Loud National Finals were held at Lisner Auditorium at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Norman was among nine finalists and 53 state champions from across the country who participated in the ninth national poetry recitation contest, sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Norman’s final recitation Wednesday evening was “Let the Light Enter,” a poem by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Norman also recited Stanley Kunitz’s “The Layers” and Robert E. Hayden’s “Mourning Poem for the Queen of Sunday” at the Wednesday evening finals. When asked about which poem a person should recite, Norman said, “The poem should make a statement and be a piece of who you are.” Listen to a conversation with the 2014 Poetry Out Loud champion at http://1.usa.gov/1jlFK6i.

The second-place winner in the 2014 Poetry Out Loud national competition was Lake Wilburn of Columbus, Ohio, who received a $10,000 award. Natasha Simone Vargas of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, received the third-place prize and a $5,000 award.

In addition, the 4th – 9th place finalists each received a $1,000 award, and their schools received $500 each for the purchase of poetry books. The other finalists were: Savina Magdalena Barini (Twin Falls, ID); BreAnna LaVerne Smith (Baton Rouge, LA); Thomas K. Fields (St. Louis, MO); Kristina L. Watkins (San Antonio, TX); Elizabeth Mo (Richland, WA); and Austin Gage (Moundsville, WV). A total of $50,000 was awarded Wednesday evening to the finalists and their schools.

Reporter on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for National Public Radio's Arts Desk, Neda Ulaby, hosted the Poetry Out Loud National Finals. Guest judges presiding over the final rounds of competition on Wednesday night included poets Ming Di and Valerie Martínez; novelist Tope Folarin; Poets House Director Lee Briccetti; and actor/performer Chris Sarandon. The featured musical performer was Meklit.

Guest judges evaluating recitations during the semifinal rounds on Tuesday included poets Allison Hedge Coke, Dorothea Lasky and Roger Reeves; Barrelhouse poetry editor Dan Brady; Robert Casper of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress; Teri Cross Davis, poetry and lectures coordinator at the Folger Shakespeare Library; Pink Line Project founder Philippa Hughes; Celeste Mendoza, co-founder and co-director of CantoMundo; and Dan Vera, co-founder of VRZHU Press.

On April 29, 53 high school students—Poetry Out Loud champions from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—recited poetry in three semifinal rounds based on geographic region. Nine students advanced to compete in the National Finals on April 30. Judges evaluated student performances on criteria including physical presence, articulation, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty, and accuracy. Students performed poems from the Poetry Out Loud print and online anthologies. The event was the culmination of a pyramid-structure competition that began last September in more than 2,300 high schools across the country.

Poetry Out Loud encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high school students across teh country Poetry Out Loud gives students an opportunity to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. Now in its ninth year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud has inspired millions of high school students to discover classic and contemporary poetry.

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Poetry Out Loud Partnerships

The National Finals are the culmination of efforts by many partners. As national partners, the NEA and the Poetry Foundation have supported the administration of the program, created educational materials, and funded awards for both the state and national finals. State arts agencies have implemented the program in high schools nationwide and organized state competitions, often in collaboration with local arts organizations. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

Schools interested in registering for the 2014-2015 Poetry Out Loud contest should contact their state arts agency. More information is available at www.poetryoutloud.org.

Educational Materials, Contests, and Awards

Poetry Out Loud offers educators free, standards-based curriculum materials, which include poetry anthologies containing more than 800 classic and contemporary poems, a teacher’s guide, lesson plans, and video and audio on the art of recitation. Schools are welcome to download these resources at www.poetryoutloud.org.

Using a pyramid structure, Poetry Out Loud started with classroom and school-wide activities and contests between September 2013 and February 2014. State contests were held by mid-March; the 53 champions of contests in every state, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC, compete at the National Finals. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals present $50,000 in awards and school stipends for the purchase of poetry books. Awards include $20,000 for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists. In total, Poetry Out Loud awards more than $100,000 to state- and national-level winners and their schools.

About the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative partnerships, prizes, and programs. For more information, visit poetryfoundation.org.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at www.arts.gov.

About Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation

Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation develops partnerships and programs that reinforce artists’ capacity to create and present work, advance access to and participation in the arts, and promote a more sustainable arts ecology.

POETRY FOUNDATION | 61 West Superior St. | Chicago, IL 60654 | 312.787.7070 | Media Contact: Elizabeth Burke-Dain, 312.799.8016; eburkedain@poetryfoundation.org


What People are Saying

"I found it especially rewarding to see how positively each student embraced the total experience. Clearly they were having a great time and one that would last a lifetime!"
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