NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa and Poetry Foundation President John Barr Announce the 2013 National Finals of Poetry Out Loud, April 29-30, 2013


Three East Coast semifinalists advance to the Tuesday night finals. From L-R: Maryland State Champion Maryland State Champion Blessed Sheriff, New Jersey State Champion Kavita Oza, US Virgin Islands Champion Josae Martin. Photo by James Kegley. Download hi-res photo

WHAT: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation announce the 2013 National Finals of Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, a program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. On Tuesday night at Lisner Auditorium at The George Washington University, nine high school students will match their skills in reciting classic and contemporary poetry in a contest for the title of National Poetry Out Loud Champion and a $20,000 award. These nine state champions advanced from the Monday semifinals, with 53 students representing every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These 53 state champions emerged from a competitive field of more than 2,000 participating high schools nationwide. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will award a total of $50,000 in cash and school stipends for the purchase of poetry books. Award-winning playwright Anna Deavere Smith will host the Tuesday evening finals. Poetry fans nationwide can take part in the event via a live, one-time-only webcastviewing parties, and on Twitter @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POL13.

WHO: Speakers and participants at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals: Anna Deavere Smith, award-winning playwright, actress, and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship Award. Guest judges are poets Patricia Smith and Eduardo Corral; BBC Correspondent Jane O'Brien; Kevin Dyels, director of the Interpreting Services Division of TCS Associates; and Tree Swenson, executive director of the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. The featured performer is Ben Sollee.

2013 Poetry Out Loud National Finalists:

Illinois State Champion Rapheal K. Mathis, Plainfield East High School, Plainfield, Illinois

Maryland State Champion Blessed Sheriff, Richard Montgomery High School, Gaithersburg, Maryland

Minnesota State Champion Oluwatosin Oyeyemi Ajagbe, Woodbury High School, Woodbury, Minnesota

Nebraska State Champion Russell Heitmann, Thayer Central Community Schools, Hebron, Nebraska

New Jersey State Champion Kavita Oza, The Peddie School, Hightstown, New Jersey

Oklahoma State Champion Denise L. Burns, Lawton High School, Lawton, OK

Texas State Champion, Maria Jose Zuniga, Coppell High School, Coppell, Texas

Washington State Champion, Langston Ward, Mead High School, Spokane, WA

US Virgin Islands Champion Josae Martin, Charlotte Amalie High School, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

WHEN/WHERE: Poetry Out Loud National Finals - Tuesday, April 30, 7:00 pm - 9:15 pm ET, Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University, 730 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC. Pre-event interviews with the nine National Finalists take place from 6:00 - 6:30 pm. Post-event photos and interviews opportunities with Finalists, judges, and speakers take place onstage, 9:15 - 9:45 pm.

OTHER: The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. The event will offer ASL interpretation. For more information call 202-682-5606 or visit

WEBCAST: The semifinals and finals can be viewed remotely through a closed captioned, one-time-only webcast.

FOLLOW: Poetry Out Loud is on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POL13.

CONTACT: Media must RSVP to Sally Gifford, NEA Communications, 202-682-5606. Video crews covering the Tuesday night National Finals must arrive by 6:45 pm to reserve a space.


NEA Sally Gifford

Poetry Foundation Kristin Gecan