Lily Bogas of Marin County Named California’s 2019 Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Lily Bogas on Monday, March 11, 2019, at the California Poetry Out Loud State Finals. Photo by Israel M. Costales, Cinnamon Roll Photography.

SACRAMENTO, CA – Lily Bogas of Tamalpais High School in Marin County is California’s 2019 Poetry Out Loud state champion. The high-school junior took first place in the state finals competition on March 11 at the state Capitol in Sacramento. Bogas will go on to represent the state of California at the national finals in April in Washington, D.C.

Lily Bogas recited “Megan Married Herself” by Caroline Bird, “Shall earth no more inspire thee” by Emily Brontë and “Diameter” by Michelle Y. Burke. Her English teacher is Barbara Kurita-Ditz, and her poetry coach is Claire Blotter.

Bogas, a devout drama student, explained the connection she feels between Poetry Out Loud and her love of the theater: “I find this opportunity of poetry recitation a really beautiful practice to just come back to yourself, and speak from your soul, because in the end being sincere and true to yourself is really what people in the theater—and everywhere—crave to see in a performance,” she said.

Penny DellaPelle, a sophomore at San Luis Obispo High School in San Luis Obispo County, was runner-up and will represent California in the national finals in the event Bogas is unable to attend. Jackson Dean, a senior at Palm Valley School and repeat Riverside County champion, took third place.

Sonoma County champion Zoya Ahmed took first place in the newly added creative writing contest portion of the program, Poetry Ourselves. Included in the Poetry Out Loud contest on the national level since 2016, this year marks the first time California offered students the chance to submit original written works at the state level. Ahmed, a 16-year-old sophomore from Maria Carrillo High School in Sonoma County, delivered a rousing recitation of her original poem, “A Concerto of Spice.” County champions Ceiba Cummings of Yreka High School in Siskiyou County and Georgia Schreiner of Villanova Preparatory School in Ventura County tied as runners-up for their original works, “I Was Your World” and “Alphabet Soup.” All three contestants’ poems will be featured on the California Poetry Out Loud website.

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 master public speaking skills, 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 2019 competition series encompasses 52 counties, 305 schools, and 730 teachers, reaching nearly 60,600 students statewide.

“This event is something we look forward to every year. It’s an incredible chance to witness some amazing artistic expression and get a glimpse into the creative future of our state. It drives home our belief that art can elevate, and bring a sense of agency, and give a voice to the voiceless—which you certainly are not,” said California Art Council Executive Director Anne-Bown Crawford, addressing the students on the floor the beautiful and historic Senate chambers.

A list of all of the state finalists, their schools, counties, and chosen poems can be found in the official event program.

About Poetry Out Loud
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 the spelling bee). 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.

For more information about the state Poetry Out Loud program, visit

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The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California’s diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Vice Chair Larry Baza, Juan Devis, Jodie Evans, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Donn K. Harris, and Louise McGuinness. Learn more at

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