Delali Bruce of Santa Clara County Is the 2021 California Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Left to right: 2021 California Poetry Out Loud state champion Delali Bruce of Santa Clara County and Poetry Ourselves first-place winner Emily Lieber of El Dorado County.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Delali Bruce of Santa Clara County has been named this year’s California Poetry Out Loud state champion. The 17-year-old senior from PS Academy took first place in the statewide recitation competition held virtually last week. 

The 2021 State Finals marked the 16th year of the Poetry Out Loud program for high school students, which encourages youth to learn about poetry through memorization and performance. All but 11 of California’s counties participated in this year’s event, with 47 students competing for the state title. In response to the state’s current COVID-19 public health emergency, the finals were modified to be a virtual competition. An event program listing all participants and judges can be viewed at this link.

Recitations from Delali included “Negative” by Kevin Young, “The Chimney Sweeper: When my mother died I was very young” by William Blake, and “Kin” by Maya Angelou. Her teacher is Kossiwa Bruce.

Delali shared her love for poetry as a participant of the Poetry Out Loud program: “Poetry Out Loud is such a warm and inviting space for high-schoolers to come together and find community through the words of other poets. I love poetry because it is a beautiful vessel for self-expression. I feel connected to a poet, their story, their upbringing, and their history, because of their poetry,” she said.

Eden Getahun, a senior at C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento County and last year’s state champion, was runner-up in this year’s competition. Arjun ‘RJ’ Medhekar, a sophomore at Pacific Collegiate School and Santa Cruz County champion, took third place.  

Additional finalists who scored among the top recitation submissions included students representing another 10 counties from across the state:

  • Angelo Hillstock, San Benito County, San Benito High School
  • Connie Krautkramer, Nevada County, Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning
  • Elizabeth Soria Ceja, Napa County, Vintage High School
  • Ella Wen, Sonoma County, Maria Carrillo High School
  • Gabrielle Trapse, Tulare County, Tulare Union High School
  • Joseph Opp, San Bernardino County, Los Osos High School
  • Karaina Perkins, Riverside County, Shadow Hills High School
  • Kate Linggi, San Diego County, Academy of Our Lady of Peace
  • Rain Boyd, Amador County, Amador High School
  • Renee Wrysinski, Colusa County, Colusa High School

This year’s competition was also the third opportunity for California’s county champions to submit original written works at the state level through the Poetry Ourselves creative writing contest. The winning piece, “Mainstream Misery,” was written by El Dorado County Poetry Out Loud champion Emily Lieber, a 16-year-old junior at Oak Ridge High School. Fifteen-year-old Amy Liu, a sophomore at Developing Virtue Secondary School in Mendocino County, was runner-up for her submission, titled “The Other Half.” County champions Micah Gawel of Valley Christian School in Alameda County, Angelo Hillstock of San Benito High School in San Benito County, and Roxanne Wright of Yuba City High School in Sutter County all received honorable mentions for their original works, “In the Night,” “Tinnitus,” and “Unanswered Wanderers,” respectively. All five contestants’ poems will be featured on the California Poetry Out Loud website.

“For 16 years, California Poetry Out Loud has been an opportunity to honor the emerging voices of our state’s young people through the rich tapestry of many celebrated poets,” said California Arts Council Executive Director Anne Bown-Crawford. “This year’s virtual competition highlighted the importance of the literary arts as an outlet for creative expression as our participants processed the challenges of the ongoing pandemic. We admire the commitment and capacity our state’s young people displayed through their preparation and inspiring submissions.”

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 the masters 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 2021 competition series encompassed 47 counties, 208 schools, and 416 teachers, reaching more than 10,000 students statewide.

Poetry Ourselves

The California Poetry Out Loud program also incorporates a creative writing component of the competition, Poetry Ourselves, offered for the third 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 poet. 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.

About the 2021 State Finals

As a precautionary measure in response to the ongoing public health crisis surrounding COVID-19, the California Arts Council elected to hold the 16th annual California Poetry Out Loud State Finals as a virtual event.  

Three rounds of poem recitation videos were submitted by students to be assessed and scored by the judges. Final score tallies determined the 2021 California Poetry Out Loud state champion, an honor that includes a $200 cash prize and $500 toward literary materials for the winner’s school. The state runner-up also receives a $100 cash prize and $200 for their school’s literary materials.

Due to the ongoing safety concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Endowment for the Arts has decided the National Finals Competition will take place virtually this spring. The formal announcement on the national Poetry Out Loud website reads as follows: “In order to ensure the safety and health of participating students and staff, the 2021 POL National Finals will be held virtually in lieu of holding them on-site in Washington D.C. as previously planned. This decision is based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and General Counsel for the National Endowment for the Arts. The 2021 POL National Semifinals will take place on Sunday, May 2nd and the 2021 POL National Finals will take place on Thursday, May 27th. Both will be video submission-based competitions and will be streamed on”

For more details about the 2021 California Poetry Out Loud State Finals, its history, and to view the official event program, please visit the California Poetry Out Loud website at

Participating Counties

Finalists from the following counties competed in the 2021 California Poetry Out Loud State Finals: Alameda, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Humboldt, Inyo, Lake, 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, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba.

Event Program

The 2021 California Poetry Out Loud event program, including detailed listings on the student finalists, can be viewed at this link:


Past photos available upon request. Contact Kimberly Brown at

# # #

The California Arts Council is a state agency with a mission of strengthening arts, culture, and creative expression as the tools to cultivate a better California for all. It supports local arts infrastructure and programming statewide through grants, initiatives, and services. The California Arts Council envisions a California where all people flourish with universal access to and participation in the arts.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Vice-Chair Lilia Gonzáles-Chávez, Jodie Evans, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Stanlee Gatti, Alex Israel, Consuelo Montoya, and Jonathan Moscone. Learn more at

The California Arts Council is committed to increasing the accessibility of its online content. For language and accessibility assistance, visit

Subscribe to the California ArtBeat weekly newsletter

Skip to content