California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

February 25, 2015Caitlin Fitzwater

10th Annual California Poetry Out Loud State Finals to take place March 15th and 16th in Sacramento

With special guest Dana Gioia, award-winning poet and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, founder of Poetry Out Loud

40 California counties participate in largest State Finals in the program's history

SACRAMENTO - Tens of thousands of high school students analyzed, memorized and recited their poems in local California communities, but only forty will advance to the 10th Annual California Poetry Out Loud State Finals.

The California Poetry Out Loud State Finals are scheduled for Sunday, March 15 (Round 1) and Monday, March 16 (Round 2 and Round 3). The events on Monday, March 16 will take place in the State Capitol in Assembly Committee Room 4202, and will be televised and/or webcast live on the California Channel ( The California Channel won a Telly award in 2008 for their broadcast of that year's state finals. View a complete schedule at this link. 

This year marks the tenth time the California Arts Council has produced the annual state competition - the largest of its kind in the nation, with over 40,000 students in 40 California counties participating. An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA,) Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

"Poetry Out Loud engages thousands of California's high school students, helping them to build self-confidence, master the art of public speaking, and learn to love the written word," said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. "This year, we're proud to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this beloved initiative, as we partner with forty counties across California, making this our largest Poetry Out Loud State Final to date."

The Arts Council's 2015 California Poetry Out Loud State Finals, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, are expected to be standing-room only, based on the excitement generated statewide and attendance in previous years. Eleven judges will serve during the two-day competition and include acclaimed experts and professionals from the poetry and arts fields, such as former California Poet Laureate Al Young and filmmaker Christopher Coppola.

Participating Counties

Finalists from the following counties are expected to compete in at the State Finals: Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Humboldt, Inyo, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba.

About Poetry Out Loud

The Poetry Out Loud State Finals is California's culminating competition between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to the spelling bee). The California Poetry Out Loud champion will win $200 and a trip to Washington, DC from the NEA, to compete in the national Poetry Out Loud finals in April.  The winner's school receives $500 for poetry books. The California runner-up receives $100 from the NEA, with his or her school receiving $200 for books. At stake for the national finals is approximately $50,000 in scholarships and related winnings.

Public Attendance

Public seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. General information, including a list of poems the students may choose to recite, can be found at

Members of the press interested in California's Poetry Out Loud program should contact Caitlin Fitzwater at (916) 324-6617 or

About the Judges

Eleven judges will participate in the Poetry Out Loud State Finals:

●     Francisco X. Alarcon - Poet, Director of the Spanish for Native Speakers Program at UC Davis

●     Jennifer Swanton Brown - Cupertino Poet Laureate

●     Christopher Coppola - California Arts Council Member, Filmmaker, Founder and Chairman of Project Accessible Hollywood, Director of the Film Program at San Francisco Art Institute

●     Donn Harris - California Arts Council Chair, Executive and Artistic Director at Oakland School for the Arts

●     Avotjca Jiltonilro - Poet, Musician, Radio Personality

●     Karen Lewis - Poet, Teacher, Musician

●     Genny Lim - Faculty at New College of California, Playwright, Poet, and Performer

●     Frances Phillips - Poet, Faculty and Lecturer within the College of Liberal & Creative Arts at SFSU, Program Director at the Creative Work Fund, The Walter and Elise Haas Fund

●     Joel B. Tan  - Poet, Director of Community Engagement, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

●     Shayna Maci Warner -  2014 California Poetry Out Loud Champion

●     Al Young - CA Poet Laureate Emeritus, Novelist, Essayist, Screenwriter, and Professor

About special guest Dana Gioia

Dana Gioia is an internationally-acclaimed and award-winning poet. Former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Gioia is a native Californian of Italian and Mexican descent. He received a B.A. and an M.B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University.

As Chairman of the NEA from 2003 to 2008, Gioia succeeded in garnering enthusiastic bi-partisan support in the United States Congress for the mission of the Arts Endowment, as well as strengthening the national consensus in favor of public funding for the arts and arts education. (Business Week referred to him as "The Man Who Saved the NEA.")

Gioia's creation of a series of NEA National Initiatives combined with a wider distribution of direct grants to reach previously underserved communities, making the agency truly national in scope. One such initiative was Poetry Out Loud, which now involves nearly half a million high school students across the country in a national poetry recitation contest that awards $50,000 in scholarships. 

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The Mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Donn K. Harris, Vice Chair Susan Steinhauser, Michael Alexander, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Nashormeh Lindo, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at

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