2009 Poetry Out Loud National Finals

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The 2009 Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest involved more than 1,500 high schools and 300,000 high school students across the country.

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Maine State Champion Will Whitham reads the program prior to his semifinal round.

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The 2009 Poetry Out Loud National Finals featured 53 champions from every state, Washington, DC, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

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Oregon State Champion Tiffany Hill was the first student to recite poetry at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals using American Sign Language. Her poem choices included Ars Poetica, by Archibald MacLeish.

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The 2008 National Champion Shawntay Henry addresses the 2009 state champions at the Congressional Luncheon, Senate Caucus Room, Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC.

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At the Congressional Luncheon, Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia congratulates Virginia State Champion William Farley and his father William Farley, Sr. Farley went on to win the National Finals that evening.

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Finalists and friends gather backstage at the Lisner Auditorium before the final competition.

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Singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant, who is a member of the New York State Council on the Arts, gave a special performance of songs adapted from classic and contemporary poetry.

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Poetry Out Loud National Finals judges were (from left to right) A Prairie Home Companion'­s Garrison Keillor, poets Suji Kwock Kim, Luis Rodriguez, and Patricia Smith, founder of Quest: arts for everyone Tim McCarty, award-winning actress Tyne Daly, and NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown.

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Garrison Keillor with the third-place winner Kareem Sayegh of Champaign, Illinois, immediately after the National Finals.

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From L-R: The top three: Kentucky State Champion Barbara Gooding (second place winner), Virginia State Champion William Farley (National Champion) and Illinois State Champion Kareem Sayegh (third place winner).

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Poetry Out Loud National Champion William Farley of Virginia.