Art Works Blog

Meet the Poetry Out Loud Judges! #POL14 edition

The 53 Poetry Out Loud state champions who are arriving in Washington, DC today for two days of intense competition have a tough job. But, perhaps, there's one group who has it even tougher--the Poetry Out Loud judges. Over two days, the 14 judges for the semifinals and finals rounds must decide which of the 53 young people--already acknowledged as the best in their states out of the approximately 365,000 students who competed this year--is the best of the best. These judges will, poem by poem, discern who gets top marks for everything from physical presence to dramatic appropriateness to evidence of understanding. We hope you'll join us online or in person from 9:00 am-8:00 pm ET tomorrow, April 29, for the regional semi-finals rounds, and then on Wednesday, April 30, for the finals round from 7:00-9:15 pm ET. All the action will take place at arts. gov. (Please click here for more information, including when your state's champ will compete tomorrow.)

And now, let's meet some of our judges....


Headshot of poet and editor Dan Brady

Dan Brady. Photo by Liz Vance

My 10 word bio: Dan Brady is a poet and an editor of Barrelhouse.

No poetry library is complete without: Am I supposed to pick just one? Because I can’t. I don’t think collected or selected editions are the best to read but to get my personal canon included I’d want the collected poems of W.H. Auden, Ted Berrigan, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, Jack Gilbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Lorienne Niedecker, Kenneth Patchen, Jack Spicer, Walt Whitman, and William Carlos Williams.


Robert Casper

Robert Casper.

My 10-word bio: Robert Casper is head of the LC PLC in DC.

No poetry library is complete without: Although every library should have The Norton Anthology of Poetry as a necessary reference and starting-off point for all lovers of the art, given my position I’m going to plug The Poets Laureate Anthology.


Allison Hedge Coke

Allison Hedge Coke. Photo by Shane Brown Photography

My 10-word bio: poet, writer, artist, activist, environmentalist, filmmaker, dreamer, thinker, innovator, shaker.

No poetry library is complete without: A must have for anyone coming to poetry. Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas is the only contemporary poetry collection that brings together the voices of over eighty poets of the Indigenous Western Hemisphere and serves it up peppered with multilingual flair. Sing includes translations by exemplary Latino poets, is noted as the first of its kind published in the United States, and Sing is the first major poetry anthology specifically focused in poetry by Indigenous poets of the 21st century. If I could suggest a second book, it would be The Butterfly's Burden by Mahmoud Darwish and translated by Fady Joudah. Darwish was a poets' poet and his [poetry] an essential view into the poetry of witness and of firsthand merit. Joudah's delivery brings the reader the lifeblood of the immense work. Stupendous.


poet Teri Cross Davis reading from behind a podium

Teri Cross Davis. Photo courtesy of Ms. Davis

My 10-word bio: Poet, mother, wife, poetry and lectures coordinator, and arts enthusiast.

No poetry library is complete without: Gwendolyn Brooks, Selected Poems. Brooks displayed such a mastery of form and content. Her work gave voice and provided insight into a culture that was very much American but often overlooked.


Poet Ming Di

Ming Di. Photo courtesy of Ms. Di

My 10-word bio: poet, editor of New Cathay-Contemporary Chinese Poetry (Tupelo Press, 2013)

No poetry library is complete without: The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris. This anthology of international poetry in English translations makes the “other” voices around the world part of the American canon.


Headshot of Tope Folarin

Tope Folarin. Photo by David Fleming

My 10-word bio:I am a writer, a thinker, and a speaker.

No poetry library is complete without: The Half-Finished Heaven by Tomas Transtromer. It is a deeply moving, deeply spiritual book that will change your life if you allow it to enter you. I also love The World Doesn't End by Charles Simic.


Headshot of poet Valerie Martinez

Valerie Martinez. Photo by Paul Resnick

My 10-word bio: Valerie Martínez is a poet, educator, activist, and collaborative artist.

No poetry library is complete without: Poems of Paul Celan: A Bilingual German/English Edition, Michael Hamburger (Translator). Persea Books 2002. Celan’s poems are supreme examples of the way poetry can, through extraordinary language, capture what we might think is inexpressible.


Poet Celeste G. Mendoza

Celeste G. Mendoza. Photo by Mari Correa

My 10-word bio: Celeste Guzmán Mendoza is a poet, playwright and essayist. Her book, Beneath the Halo, was published in September 2013 by Wings Press.

No poetry library is complete without: Sonnets to Human Beings and other Selected Works, by Carmen Tafolla. A fabulous collection of well-crafted, bilingual poems that tell the stories of people I know from my own barrio. Tafolla is one of the best craftsmen of code-switching in the country, so this is a must-read for anyone wanting to refine their own technique.


Chris Sarandon

Chris Sarandon. Photo courtesy of Mr. Sarandon

My 10-word bio: Actor Chris Sarandon works in the theater, movies and television.

No poetry library is complete without: My love of poetry was ignited by a college class in Victorian poetry. Any book that includes works by the Brownings, Tennyson, the Bronte sisters, the Rossetti siblings, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Yeats, among others, is a masterful survey of the best of English poetry. "Ulysses" by Alfred Lord Tennyson is still my favorite poem. Also, any Billy Collins poetry anthology.

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