Photo of Madison Ganzak

Madison Ganzak, 2021 State Champion Credit: Jennifer Deckert Photography

Michigan Humanities and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs announce that Madison Ganzak, a senior at Roosevelt High School in Wyandotte, is the 2021 Michigan Poetry Out Loud State Champion. Madison’s Poetry Out Loud teachers at Roosevelt High School are Rob Keast and Warren Baker.

The first runner-up is Elaiyna Schwartzkopf, from Calvary Baptist Academy in Midland. The second runner-up is Tyler Zolynsky, from Riverview Community High School in Riverview. The third runner-up is Catelyn Danckaert, from Black River Public School in Holland.

The competition, presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. Twenty students representing their high schools and non-profit organizations participated in the Poetry Out Loud State Finals, which were streamed via Zoom on the evening of March 11, 2021.

Poetry Out Loud starts in a high school classroom or at the local level with an area organization. Winners then advance to the state competition, and ultimately to the national level. For the virtual Michigan State Finals, contestants recited works they memorized from an anthology of more than 1,100 classic and contemporary poems. Madison Ganzak recited “Violins” by Rowan Ricardo Phillips, “Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy” by Thomas Lux, and “[‘Often rebuked, yet always back returning’]” by Emily Brontë.

“I am so grateful for Poetry Out Loud, and I am thrilled to represent Michigan at Nationals,” Madison Ganzak said. She continued, “At a time in my life when nothing has been normal, I got to do something that I love and share that love with others! Amazing teachers made this possible for me—thank you Mr. Keast and Mr. Baker, along with everyone involved at POL.”

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation provide free, standards-based curriculum materials—all available online—which teachers may choose to use in their classrooms. These include a poetry anthology containing more than 1,100 classic and contemporary poems, a teacher’s guide, lesson plans, posters, and video and audio on the art of recitation. Since the program began in 2005, more than 4 million students and 65,000 teachers from 16,000 schools across the country have participated in Poetry Out Loud. During the 2020-21 school year, nearly 80 teachers and 3,800 students took part in Michigan. At Michigan’s virtual competition, five judges assessed the students’ recitations based on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy. The 2021 Michigan Poetry Out Loud judging panel included:

  • Laura Apol, Associate Professor at Michigan State University and Lansing-area poet laureate
  • Lyndon DeFoe, political science student at Stanford University and 2016 POL State Champion
  • Chad Swan-Badgero, Arts Education Program Manager at the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs
  • Russell Thorburn, author, National Endowment for the Arts recipient, and first poet laureate of the Upper Peninsula
  • Divya Victor, author, editor, and Associate Professor of English at Michigan State University

In addition to the recitation contest, Michigan Poetry Out Loud also held an original poetry and artwork competition. The original poetry contest winner is Crishtion King, for his poem “No Pity.” Crishtion is taking part in Poetry Out Loud through WHOH Community Sports Complex, Inc., and is a student at Loyola High School in Detroit. The first runner-up is Isabelle Larou, for her poem “Where in the World.” The second runner-up is Aliina Maki-Warne, for her poem “Swim like the Fishes, it’ll help.” The third runner-up is Maya Lackey, for her poem “Wonders.” Isabelle, Aliina, and Maya are all students at Marquette Senior High School. The artwork contest winner is Courtney Larson, a student at Marquette Senior High School.

The original poetry competition was judged by Melba Joyce Boyd, Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Wayne State University. The artwork contest was judged by a panel of Michigan Humanities staff.

Madison Ganzak will receive a $1200 cash award, and Roosevelt High School will receive a $1500 stipend to support poetry materials and resources. Madison will compete in the national finals, held virtually in May 2021. Students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa will provide video submissions for this semi-finals competition, which will be broadcast on Sunday, May 2, 2021, at The top nine students will move on to the finals competition, to be broadcast on Thursday, May 27, 2021, again at The Poetry Out Loud national finals will present a total of $50,000 in awards and school/organization stipends, including a $20,000 award for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

At the statewide level, Elaiyna Schwartzkopf, first runner-up, will receive $600, with $700 for her school. Tyler Zolynsky, second runner-up, will receive $250, and $250 for his school. Catelyn Danckaert, third runner-up, will receive $150, and $150 for her school. Crishtion King, winner of the original poetry competition, will receive $1,000. Isabelle Lagrou, the first runner-up, will receive $500. Aliina Maki-Warne, the second runner-up, will receive $250. Maya Lackey, the third runner-up, will receive $150. Courtney Larson, artwork contest winner, will receive $500. Courtney’s artwork—inspired by Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb”—was featured on this year’s State Finals program cover.

Michigan’s Poetry Out Loud program is funded through a partnership between Michigan Humanities and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Additional support is generously provided by the Liesel Litzenburger Meijer Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Poetry Foundation.