Chariho Regional High School student represents RI in the national Poetry Out Loud competition 

 Semifinals and national competitions to be virtual, May 2 and May 27 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is POL-Logo-1.jpgChariho Regional High School’s Virginia Keister of Hope Valley represents Rhode Island in the national Poetry Out Loud memorization and recitation competition. She competes in the semifinalsSunday, May 2, at noon, and if she qualifies, will be in the finals, Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m. Both competitions will be streamed online during a webcast. 

Keister, the winner of the state competition in March, is one of 55 finalists from throughout the country. She will compete by reciting from memory classic and contemporary poems. All 55 compete in the semifinals. Nine will advance to the finals, and they will compete on Thursday, May 26, at 7 p.m. The 2021 national Poetry Out Loud winner receives $20,000; $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists, respectively 

On behalf of the RI State Council in the Arts, Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of RISCA, said, “We wish Virginia our very best as she competes on a national stage. We thank the Poetry Out Loud team here in RI for overcoming the challenges of this difficult year to ensure RI held the recitation competition. I encourage Rhode Islanders to tune in and support Virginia’s work, as well as the inspiring accomplishments of these students who put in many hours of practice and rehearsal to reach this incredible milestone.” 

Actor, singerwriter Shaun Taylor-Corbett will host the 2021 Poetry Out Loud national finals. For the 2021 national finals, the judges are Cathy Linh Che, Eduardo C. Corral, Gabriel Cortez, Idris Goodwin, Elisa New and Branden Wellington. 

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies. In Rhode Island, the POL team is led by Martha Lenihan Lavieri. She has been the veteran program coordinator for RI Poetry Out Loud since 2013RI Poetry Out Loud employs two teaching artists as coaches, Kate Lohman and Damont Combs. 

Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, DC. Since its inception, 3.6 million students from 14,000 high schools nationwide have participated in Poetry Out Loud. This year, all preliminary school competitions and visits with teaching artists were done virtually. Students rose to the challenges presented by the pandemic to showcase their love and appreciation for poetry during this atypical school year.   

Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest inspires high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performances and competition. Poetry Out Loud ( is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using #POL21 and #IAmPoetryOutLoud. 

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