SACRAMENTO, CA – Alex Yue of Sacramento County has been named this year’s California Poetry Out Loud state champion. The 17-year-old senior from John F. Kennedy High School took first place in the statewide recitation competition held virtually on Sunday, March 19. Yue will go on to represent the state of California at the national finals in May in Washington, D.C.
The 2023 State Finals marked the 18th year of the Poetry Out Loud program for high school students, which encourages youth to learn about poetry through memorization and performance. Students representing 48 counties competed for the state title.
For the fourth consecutive year, students participated in a virtual competition for the finals, but for the first time ever in 2023, with an added live third round conducted via Zoom. Two rounds of pre-recorded poem recitation videos were submitted by students, which were assessed and scored by our judges. Score tallies determined the top ten finalists, who performed a third and final round of recitations live via Zoom. Final score tallies immediately following Sunday’s competition decided the 2023 California Poetry Out Loud state champion, announced live during the event.
Recitations from Alex included “Filling Station” by Elizabeth Bishop, “The Conqueror Worm” by Edgar Allen Poe, and “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman. His teacher is Jennifer Reynaga.
Alex shared his love for poetry as a participant of the Poetry Out Loud program: “The arts and Poetry Out Loud have been a way for me to express my individuality,” he said. “Through the poems of my choice, my understanding, my approach, and my few or many victories, I can feel myself interacting with artistically adorned ideas that are depthful and great.”
Anaiya Asomugha, a 17-year-old junior at The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles County, was runner-up in this year’s competition. Third place went to Olivia Le, a 15-year-old sophomore at Orange County School of the Arts in Orange County.
Additional finalists who performed live recitation during Sunday’s competition included students representing another seven counties from across the state:
- Henry Aaron Greber – Marin County
- Karina Torres – Monterey County
- Colette St. Aubin – Napa County
- Faith Bakhos – San Bernardino County
- Selina Xu – Santa Clara County
- Chelle T. Servais – Sonoma County
- Natalie Harris – Tuolumne County
Since 2019, California’s county champions have also been invited to submit original written works at the state level through the Poetry Ourselves creative writing contest. The winning piece for 2023, “my american alphabet,” was written by Orange County Poetry Out Loud champion and state competition third-place winner Olivia Le. Sixteen-year-old Selina Xu, a junior at Harker Upper School in Santa Clara County, was selected as runner-up with her submission, titled “Ocean Sister,” and 17-year-old Tashi Liem, a senior at Santa Cruz High School in Santa Cruz County, received third place for their poem, “under the sun.”
All three contestants’ were invited to recite their poems during Sunday’s live event, and their poems are featured on the California Poetry Out Loud website.
“Poetry Out Loud has sparked a deeper engagement with poetry across California, with more families inspired to attend poetry slams, parents and friends enjoying open-mic nights together, libraries hosting poetry readings, and the list goes on. The benefits of poetry are endless,” California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom said on Sunday, in an introductory video address to the student finalists. “You all are among those budding poets who developed a love for one of humanities most beautiful art forms. I’m thrilled to extend my congratulations to each and everyone of the county champions for your amazing accomplishments.”
“Each student in this competition has developed a deep connection with poetry that is so clear within their performances,” said California Arts Council Chair Chelo Montoya. “It is a heartwarming, inspiring, and encouraging thing to know that California’s creativity is alive and thriving within the minds and souls of our youth. Congratulations to the winners and to all of our 2023 county champions.”
About Poetry Out Loud
An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, administered by the California Arts Council, Poetry Out Loud inspires in high school students the confidence to make themselves heard, using one of the most powerful tools at their disposal—art. Students are given the opportunity to interact with the words of well-respected poets through recitation, building a relationship with the works and creating a sense of shared ownership branded by their own technique of volume, pitch, pace, and personal point of view.
The California Poetry Out Loud State Finals is the culminating competition between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to a spelling bee). California’s Poetry Out Loud is the largest event of its kind in the U.S. and has grown steadily since its inception.
The state champion receives $200 and a trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national Poetry Out Loud finals, paid for by the National Endowment from the Arts. The winner’s school will also receive $500 for poetry materials. The State Finals runner-up will receive a $100 cash prize, with $200 awarded to their school for book purchases. Competing at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals presents the opportunity for approximately $50,000 in scholarship funds and related winnings.
About Poetry Ourselves
The California Poetry Out Loud program also incorporates a creative writing component of the competition, Poetry Ourselves, offered for the fourth year in a row. County champions are invited to submit an original written poem of no more than 50 lines, judged anonymously by a guest judge. The winner receives $100; poems by the winner, runner-up, and honorable mention recipients will be recognized and featured on the California Poetry Out Loud website.
Finalists from the following counties are expected to compete in at the 2023 California Poetry Out Loud State Finals: Alameda, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Humboldt, Inyo, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Plumas, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba.
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Members of the California Arts Council include: Consuelo Montoya, Chair; Vicki Estrada, Vice Chair; Gerald Clarke; Caleb Duarte; Ellen Gavin; Leah Goodwin; Alex Israel; Phil Mercado; Roxanne Messina Captor; Nicola Miner; and Olivia Raynor. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov.
The California Arts Council is committed to increasing the accessibility of its online content. For language and accessibility assistance, visit https://arts.ca.gov/about/about-us/language-communications-assistance. To read this announcement in Spanish, please use the website’s Google Translate tool by clicking the “Translate” link in the upper righthand corner of this page.
El Consejo de las Artes de California se compromete a aumentar la accesibilidad de sus contenidos en línea. Para obtener ayuda con el idioma y la accesibilidad, visite https://arts.ca.gov/about/about-us/language-communications-assistance. Para leer este anuncio en español, utilice la herramienta Google Translate del sitio web haciendo clic en el enlace “Traducir” situado en la esquina superior derecha de esta página.