Poetry Out Loud is a national program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Poetry Out Loud encourages students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. The program culminates is a final recitation competition where each state and territory in the United States sends a champion. The 2019 National Finals were held April 30-May 1, 2019 at George Washington University. This year, the Rhode Island Champion was senior Haley Long from Classical High School.
RISCA Arts in Education Director, Maggie Anderson, joined Haley on the trip to DC for the final competition. It’s a tough schedule for the finalists. On Tuesday, April 30, the state champions competed throughout the day in semi-final rounds. The top nine finalists (three from each semi-final round) advanced to the finals competition on Wednesday, May 1. Poet, author, and 2018 National Book Award recipient Elizabeth Acevedo hosted the event, which also included a performance by Kansas City-based mother/son duo Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear.
This year’s winner of Poetry Out Loud was Isabella Callery from Minnesota. Haley was a strong competitor, receiving perfect scores for accuracy in her semi-final. Although she didn’t advance to the final round, she made Rhode Island proud by being an encouraging, supportive, and enthusiastic cheerleader for the new friends and fellow young poets still advancing in the competition.
While on this trip, both Haley and Maggie made the most of being in Washington, DC. Haley was able to meet with almost all of the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation and speak to them about the importance of poetry in her life. Maggie spent time with her colleges from State Arts Agencies throughout the country discussing the challenges and successes of the Poetry Out Loud program – and youth arts programs in general – and deeply exploring issues of inclusion, equity, access and diversity.
Haley, who graduates next month, will be attending Columbia University in the Fall of 2020 after spending a gap year in Spain.
Poetry Out Loud RI is an annual competition for high school students; there is no cost to participate. RISCA partners with VSA Arts RI to coordinate the local and state competitions. For more information on how to get involved email Martha Lavieri at email@example.com
*Pictured, Maggie Anderson, Haley Long and mother, Justice Melissa A. Long; Senator Jack Reed and Haley Long; Haley Long and new friends