Alexis, you made us proud last night. California proud.
At the Poetry Out Loud National Semifinals yesterday in Washington, D.C., your presence captivated and your voice did not waver. You fully embodied the words of your recitations as you unleashed them, one by one, into the Lisner Auditorium.
Your chosen poems—“If They Should Come for Us,” by Fatimah Asghar, and “The Mortician in San Francisco,” by Randall Mann—both bold and beautiful works, aligned so perfectly with your desire to leverage the arts for social change.
At a time when the world is waking up to the value of our young people’s voices, we couldn’t have been more confident in our judges’ decision to send you to the mic to represent our state’s creative and conscious youth. You gave us, our nation’s capital and the whole country a rousing look into what you believe, who you are, and who you are going to be.
Your performances left a strong and lasting impression on everyone watching, including those who moved through to today’s final round. You are—unmistakably—our champion.
“… Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia!” Lindo finishes with enthusiasm.
The reaction of the room speaks volumes. As cheers erupt on the floor and spread to the gallery above, it’s clear Alexis was a fan favorite, winning the approval of her peers as well as the judges. In a venue like the historic Assembly chambers, where decisions are made each day by representatives of the electorate, the occasion feels fittingly democratic.
An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, administered by the CAC, Poetry Out Loud offers teens the confidence to make themselves heard, with poetry as their medium. Contestants get the chance to better understand and connect with the work of the masters through their own unique interpretation and delivery.
Over the course of the two-day final competition, Alexis captured the hearts and minds of her observers, reciting three poems with style and precision: “If They Should Come for Us,” by Fatimah Asghar, “Chorus Sacerdotum,” by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville, and “The Mortician in San Francisco,” by Randall Mann.
The Orange County senior from Mater Dei High Shcool explains her relationship with poetry as a tool to promote social change on a civic level and within the world of art itself. “The arts give me the courage to express my values with an activist’s voice in the midst of the fear and ignorance residing on both sides of the ‘fourth wall,'” she said.
Sacramento County senior Sage Innerarity of Pleasant Grove High earned the prize of runnerup. Nicholas Panyanouvong, a sophomore at James C. Enochs High in Stanislaus County took third place for the second year in a row.
Poetry Out Loud is a statewide combined effort—this year involving the participation of 46 counties and 261 schools, the encouragement of 783 teachers, and the dedication of 30,000 students. It takes a panel of knowledgeable judges, a cadre of CAC Council Members and staff, a guest appearance from California Poet Laureate and POL founder Dana Gioia, and the backing and encouragement of countless legislators—just to name a few.
But the county finalists are no doubt the stars, and not only for their onstage presence. Their enthusiasm for one another out of the spotlight is all the more extraordinary, as heard in that volcanic moment on the Assembly floor.
“That’s what I love so much about Poetry Out Loud,” explained Chair Nashormeh Lindo. “It is the young people’s camaraderie and genuine support of one another that makes it so much more inspiring. It makes me hopeful, seeing their authentic humanity and respect for one another.”
Alexis will go on to represent California in the national finals next month in Washington, D.C., on April 23-25. We’ll have all the details for you to tune in and watch coming soon.
Congratulations to this year’s winners, and to all the county champions!
(Featured photo: The 2018 Poetry Out Loud Champions in the Assembly chambers at the California State Capitol. From left to right: CAC Deputy Director Ayanna Kiburi, California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia, Third Place Winner Nicholas Panyanouvong, Runnerup Sage Innerarity, California Poetry Out Loud State Champion Alexis Rangell-Onwuegbuzia, CAC Chair Nashormeh Lindo, CAC Vice Chair Larry Baza. All photos by Tia Gemmell.)
It’s been a beehive of activity at the CAC office this week, with staff buzzing around to put the finishing touches on the upcoming main event—the 2018 California Poetry Out Loud State Finals taking place this Sunday and Monday.
In just a few days, champions hailing from high schools all over California will compete for the state title, which includes a $200 cash prize, $500 toward literary materials for their school, an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., and a chance to win the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest.
It’s two days jampacked with excitement, all thanks to some incredible poetry brought to you by some very tenacious teens. Through the Poetry Out Loud program—created by the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the CAC—these awesome orators have discovered not just the power of words, but the power within themselves to bring them to life and give them character.
Join us on Sunday, March 18, at 4 p.m. for Round One at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento. Then we’re inside the Assembly Chambers of the state Capitol bright and early on Monday at 8 a.m. to complete Rounds Two and Three, where the third-place winner, runner-up, and California Poetry Out Loud 2018 state champion will make themselves known.
The event is free and open to the public both days, although space is limited. Can’t make it but still want to see what it’s all about? Tune in to Assembly TV on Monday morning to catch Rounds Two and Three as they are broadcast live from the Capitol: www.calchannel.com/live-webcast.
The CAC will be busy on its social media networks during the event, too, of course! Check out our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds for regular live updates, and join the conversation using #POL18.
(Featured photo: The 2017 state finalists in the Senate chambers at the California State Capitol.)
In a little over two weeks’ time, nearly four dozen high-schoolers from across the state will join together in a partial takeover of downtown Sacramento. They’re headed to the Capital City to step up to the mic—competing at the California Poetry Out Loud State Finals.
This will be the 13th year that the California Arts Council has administered Poetry Out Loud and produced the state finals. An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (and the brainchild of our current California Poet Laureate, Dana Gioia, during his time as NEA Chair), Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. California’s POL is the largest event of its kind in the U.S., and has held steady in the top tiers of participation and growth since its inception.
This year’s competition series encompasses 46 counties, 261 schools, and 783 teachers, reaching nearly 73,000 students statewide.
The excitement starts with Round 1, on Sunday, March 18, 4 p.m. at the Crest Theatre. Students will recite one of three selected poems for judges to evaluate and score. Then it’s off to Round 2 the next morning at 8 a.m., in the historic Assembly chambers of the Capitol building. A small group of competitors will move on to a third and final round the same morning. One winner will be chosen to represent California in the national finals, April 23-25 in Washington, D.C.
But each teen is already a champion in their own right, having beat out their peers first in their classroom, then at school, and finally at the county level.
Congratulations to all of this year’s winners – you have made us California proud! We can’t wait to see what you all have in store for us at the finals.
The 2018 California Poetry Out Loud State Finals are a free event open to the public, although space may be limited. For more details about the two-day final event and the state POL program, visit our online HQ for all things California Poetry Out Loud: http://arts.ca.gov/initiatives/pol/index.php.
(Featured photo: The 2017 state finalists in the Senate chambers at the California State Capitol.)
High school senior Levi Lowe approached the microphone. Standing tall under bright lights, in a low and steady tone, he began:
I am wondering what became of all those tall abstractions
that used to pose, robed and statuesque, in paintings
and parade about on the pages of the Renaissance
displaying their capital letters like license plates.
The 17-year-old made Sonora High School and California proud last night, performing on the national stage of the Poetry Out Loud competition for a second time (his first was in 2015). The National Endowment for the Arts program inspires students’ interest in poetry while increasing self-confidence and developing public speaking skills.
At this year’s semifinals, held at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Levi recited “The Death of Allegory” by Billy Collins and “Chorus Sacerdotum” by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville. With conscious gestures and telling looks, he conveyed his authors’ meanings through action as well as words.
Though he won’t be moving on to the finals this evening, it was no easy feat to have made it this far. To earn his place in the national contest, Levi first had to beat out more than 35,000 of his fellow students here in California, the biggest state poetry competition of its kind nationwide.
“To win—not once but twice—with such a large number of students in such a highly competitive event is a testament to Levi’s talents for spoken word. His delivery is captivating and we are proud to have been represented by him,” said Ayanna Kiburi, Interim Director of the California Arts Council.