Poetry Out Loud: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

By Paulette Beete
Teenage girl on stage reciting poetry

Minnesota's state champion Isabella Callery (Anishinaabe) became the 2019 Poetry Out Loud National Champion. Photo by James Kegley

We're just under two weeks away from the 2021 Poetry Out Loud Regional Semifinals on May 2, in which 55 POL state and jurisdictional champions will compete to be one of nine on May 27 battling it out stanza by stanza for the championship. At the risk of sounding like a cliche, each one of these champs and all of the high schoolers who compete in the competition each year are already winners no matter how they place. The proof? Well, we'll let this round-up of winners from previous years do the talking for us as they share in their own words the powerful way just participating in Poetry Out Loud has made a permanent difference in their lives.

Isabella Callery (2019)

"Something I learned is that… there’s a poem for everyone. No matter who you are, there’s a poem that you will connect with and you will feel a really deep relationship with no matter who you are."

Janae Claxton (2018)

"Becoming a part of Poetry Out Loud opened my identity and helped me shape myself so that I don't just think, 'I'm only good at sports.' I'm also good at poetry, which is something that I always thought was really hard, that I could never understand."

Samara Elán Huggins (2017) 

"I would never have expected myself to be able to speak to more than one person and convey such strong emotions and ideas and messages, but I'm capable of that, and I appreciate this program for helping me find that out."

Ahkei Togun (2016) 

"Going back to the fact of already being a spoken-word artist... the competition allowed me to accept that part of me. So that was a growth part for me, to not only accept that part of me, but find some other things that I may have been not so open about, when it came to abilities or talents because I felt like people wouldn’t accept them as much, or people would look down on them."

Maeva Ordaz (2015) 

"I think Poetry Out Loud has provided me with the opportunity to recite these poems that deal with all these issues and has made me connect with poets from different eras. Even though I may be reciting a poem from Keats from several hundred years ago, I am still able to connect with that. It ties me into the rest of humanity and all the writers who've come before me."

Anita Norman (2014)

"Poetry Out Loud has given me the courage to speak up. Being champion has given me a platform to do so."

Kristen Dupard (2011)

"It is difficult to choose just one poet that has impacted my life. Every time I read a poem, it touches a part of my life that I am trying to figure out, change, or make sense of. I feel that every poet… reminds us that we are never alone."


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