Michigan high school students showcase passion for poetry in statewide competition

Poetry Out Loud logo

Okemos, Michigan—Michigan Humanities and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs announce the 2021 State Finals for Poetry Out Loud. 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 poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

In early March, twenty high school students from communities across Michigan will compete virtually in the Poetry Out Loud State Finals. At 7 p.m. on March 11, 2021, the student recitations will be showcased through a virtual event on Zoom. Registration is available here. The 2021 State Champion and winner of the original poetry contest will be announced, as well as the runners-up for both competitions.

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. During the virtual Michigan State Finals, contestants will recite works they memorized from an anthology of more than 1,100 classic and contemporary poems. 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.

“Poetry Out Loud is a powerful way for student voices to be shared through the arts and humanities,” said Michigan Humanities President and CEO Shelly Hendrick Kasprzycki. She continued, “We look forward to seeing students showcase their hard work and represent their communities in this sixteenth year of Michigan’s Poetry Out Loud program.”

During Michigan’s virtual recitation competition, five judges will assess 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 includes:

  • 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

The original poetry competition will be judged by Melba Joyce Boyd, Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Wayne State University.

The Michigan State Champion receives a $1200 cash award, $1500 stipend for their school, and will compete in the national finals, held virtually in May 2021, where a total of $50,000 in awards and school/organization stipends, including a $20,000 award, for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion, will be presented. At the state level, the first runner-up will receive $600, with $700 for their school. The second runner-up will receive $250, with $250 for their school. The third runner-up will receive $150, with $150 for their school. The winner of the original poetry competition receives $1,000, the first runner-up will receive $500, the second runner-up will receive $250, and the third runner-up will receive $150. 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.

Please join Michigan Humanities and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs in celebrating the achievements of these students on March 11.

2021 Poetry Out Loud School Champions

Stephanie Stecconi Allen Park High School Allen Park
Catherine Lehmkuhl Academy of the Sacred Heart Bloomfield Hills
Gracia Perala Calumet High School Calumet
Avery Haynes Divine Child High School Dearborn
Noor Alchalabi Star International Academy Dearborn Heights
Crishtion King WHOH Community Sports Complex, Inc. / Loyola High School Detroit
Catelyn Danckaert Black River Public School Holland
Adeline Frazier Houghton High School Houghton
Sierra Ward Merze Tate Explorers / Loy Norrix High School Kalamazoo
Alexa Guindon Marquette Senior High School Marquette
Elaiyna Schwartzkopf Calvary Baptist Academy Midland
Colbert Bankhead Muskegon Community Education Center Muskegon
James Lindenberg Detroit Catholic Central High School Novi
Shelby Brown Pentwater Public High School Pentwater
Mary Gengle St. Michael Academy Petoskey
Ainsley Hellens Petoskey High School Petoskey
Tyler Zolynsky Riverview Community High School Riverview
Veronica Sellin St. Joseph High School St. Joseph
Hannah Eagleson Traverse Bay Area Career-Tech Center Traverse City
Madison Ganzak Roosevelt High School Wyandotte

About Michigan Humanities
Michigan Humanities inspires Michiganders to come together in creative and freely expressed ways to deepen our understanding of ourselves and enrich our communities. In carrying out this mission, Michigan Humanities builds awareness and excitement for humanities in everyday life, achieves best practices and sustainability for all humanities programs and services in Michigan, and upholds the following key values:

  • Inclusion, diversity, and equity
  • Discovery and understanding
  • Authentic conversation
  • Respectful collaboration
  • Meaningful experiences

Michigan Humanities’ vision is for all people of Michigan to experience and understand the importance of humanities to enrich lives. For more information, visit www.michiganhumanities.org.

About the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs
The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs serves to encourage, initiate, and facilitate an enriched artistic, cultural, and creative environment in Michigan. It is Michigan’s affiliate of the National Endowment for the Arts. The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs was created in 1966 by Executive Order as the state agency that administers arts and cultural grant appropriations, sets arts and cultural goals, and establishes and facilitates communication networks. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/arts.