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CA Poetry Out Loud State Finals

March 17

High school students from 50 counties across California will compete in a statewide recitation contest at the 19th annual California Poetry Out Loud State Finals on March 17 and 18 in Sacramento, hosted by California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick.

This year’s two-day celebration of our state’s young poetry champions marks the first time returning to an in-person, on-location event since 2019. State finals for the last four years had previously been modified to a virtual competition in response to the state’s COVID-19 public health emergency.

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and administered statewide by the California Arts Council, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. Participants gain proficiency in public speaking, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. California’s Poetry Out Loud is the largest event of its kind in the U.S., and has grown steadily since its inception. The 2024 competition series encompasses 50 counties, 221 schools, and 490 teachers, reaching nearly 18,849 students statewide.

The 19th annual California Poetry Out Loud State Finals will kick off its first round on Sunday, March 17 at 12 p.m. at the Jean Runyon Little Theater in Downtown Sacramento. Round two of the event begins Monday, March 18, at 8 a.m., in Room 1100 of the state Capitol Annex Swing Space. Selected students compete in a third and final round the same morning.

The final tally will determine this year’s state champion, an honor that includes a $200 cash prize, $500 toward literary materials for the winner’s school, and an all-expense paid trip to and a chance to win the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest, beginning April 29 in Washington, D.C.

Poetry Out Loud county champions have also been given the option to participate in a creative writing contest, known as Poetry Ourselves. The National Endowment for the Arts added Poetry Ourselves to the national event in 2016, and the California Arts Council has offered the opportunity at the state level since 2019. County champions are invited to submit an original written poem of no more than 50 lines, to be judged anonymously by guest judges. The winner of Poetry Ourselves receives $100 and the chance to recite their poem aloud at Monday’s final program. A runner-up and an honorable mention will also be recognized at the event, and all three poems will be published to the California Arts Council’s Poetry Out Loud website.

Event Program and Live Webcast

The 2024 California Poetry Out Loud event program, including detailed listings on the student finalists, judges, and a letter from our executive director will be distributed at the event, and an electronic version will be published to the California Poetry Out Loud website prior to the event dates.

Rounds 2 and 3 of the competition taking place on Monday, March 18, will also be livestreamed by the California Arts Council. Information and links will be made available on the Poetry Out Loud website and all California Arts Council social media channels preceding Monday’s event.

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