High school students compete in the 16th annual Poetry Out Loud state finals virtually, March 21

  • Brunette woman in her 30s wearing dangling earrings and gray tank top.
  • State poetry winner holding trophy with a women with a brown scarf and matching outfit and a man wearing glasses in gray pants and sweater.

Champion to participate in the national poetry recitation contest

High school students from seven Rhode Island schools will perform during the virtual 16th annual Poetry Out Loud Rhode Island state finals on Sunday, March 21, at 1 p.m., presented via Facebook live .

Seven schools submitted videos to the Rhode Island state finals this year. During the Facebook live event on March 21, attendees will see the recitations of all seven students. Then, there will be a final round, which will include the five finalists presenting a different poem. (The five final contestants were identified by judges earlier in this month.) Finally, there will be the selection of the state champion who will represent RI during the National Competitions in April.

2021 poetry out loud competitors are 

School  Name 
Central High School Jepthe Pinthiere  
Chariho Regional High School Virginia Keister  
Classical High School James Ninneman  
Portsmouth Abbey Casey Motta   
St Patrick Academy Bianca Bautista  
 Providence Country Day Simone Pellegrino
 Central Falls High School Karen Figueroa

“I am thrilled that this important program was able to continue given all the problems the pandemic created for students and teachers alike. On behalf of RISCA, I want to thank the participating schools and the hardworking RI Poetry Out Loud team. We send our congratulations to the champion who will be representing our state during the national competition.”

Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director of RISCA

Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, a partnership with the RI State Council on the Arts (RISCA), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, 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.

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.

This unique year called for a strong POL team, which is led by Martha Lenihan-Lavieri. Lenihan-Lavieri is the veteran program coordinator for RI Poetry Out Loud since 2013, first through Arts Equity (formerly VSA Arts RI) as the lead program partner and then independently since 2019. She is a staple of the RI Arts Education community having been a founding member of Providence Inner City Arts and other groups. She is also a talented musician.

RI Poetry Out Loud also employs two teaching artists as coaches, Kate Lohman and Damont Combs. Lohman is an actor, director, producer and adjunct professor at Providence College. She also performs extensively in regional theater and summer stock, and was a company member at Pittsburgh Public Theater, Perishable Theater and AS220’s Empire Revue. Combs is a poet in RI originally from Queens, NY. Combs otherwise known as “Mr. Orange” has released two books of poetry, My Poem… My Riddle (Prysmatic Dreams Publishing, 2015) and Damont Combs presents A Touch of Orange (Kingdom Enterprise LLC, 2016). Combs is also on staff at Motif magazine as its Poetry Curator.

The winner of the Poetry Out Loud Rhode Island finals receives $200, and the winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school library. To ensure the safety and health of participating state champions, the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Finals will be held virtually in lieu of holding them on-site in Washington DC, as previously planned. The finals will present a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends, with a $20,000 award for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.  

Poetry Out Loud Awards

RI event details: Poetry Out Loud Rhode Island finals will take place on Sunday, March 21, at 1 p.m., during a live Facebook presentation. It is free and open to the public. For more information on the state finals, visit Poetry Out Loud RI on Facebook.

About the partner organizations

National Endowment for the Arts  was established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit NEA website.  

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative partnerships, prizes and programs. For more information, visit its website.  

Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) is a state agency, supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders. For more information, visit RISCA’s website.

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