Art Works Blog

Congratulations to 2017 Poetry Out Loud National Champion Samara Elán Huggins

"I think that as humans we are innately creative beings and that we need to be able to express ourselves in multiple artistic ways. Poetry is one of the ways I do it." —  Samara Elán Huggins

Congratulations to Georgia high school senior Samara Elán Huggins, the 2017 Poetry Out Loud National Champion! With moving recitations of poems by Arthur Rimbaud, John Berryman, and W.D. Ehrhart, the Whitefield Academy senior recited her way to a $20,000 award, taking top honors among the more than 310,000 student-competitors nationwide who participated in the program this year. (Second and third place went to eleventh-graders Nicholas Amador from the Punahou School in Hawaii and Iree Mann from Syosset High School in New York, respectively.)

Huggins, who has participated in Poetry Out Loud since her freshman year of high school, heads to New York's Pratt Institute this fall to study fashion design. Visit the blog in early May for our interview with the new champion. 

a diptych of Nicholas Amador and Iree Mann competing at Poetry Out Loud

Nicholas Amador (l) and Iree Mann (r) compete at the 2017 Poetry Out Loud National Finals. Photo by James Kegley

The 53 state champions competing at the National Finals also had the opportunity to showcase their creativity through an optional competition, Poetry Ourselves. The students could submit an original work of poetry in one of two categories: either a written poem or a video of a spoken poem, both of which were judged by poet Naomi Shihab Nye and announced at last night’s national finals. Theo Cai, from Hockaday School in Texas placed first in the written category, while second place went to Megan Kim from Cascade Christian High School in Oregon. In the spoken category, top honors went to Shelby Newland, from Bloomington High School South in Indiana, with second place going to Gabrielle D. Kunzika, from Classical Magnet School in Connecticut.

This is the 12th year that the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with U.S. state arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, a contest that encourages the nation's youth to learn about great poetry—both classic and contemporary—through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. Visit to learn more about the program.

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