California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

February 27, 2009Mary Beth Barber

Senate Chamber is Venue for California's Poetry Out Loud State Finals

Standing-room only expected at event on Monday, March 23, 2009

Sacramento -

Words will fly when the students stand in the historic and ornately decorated state Senate chamber on Monday, March 23. But it won't be discussion of policy or debates about budget issues from these teens. It will be poetry.

This year marks the fourth time the California Arts Council has produced the Poetry Out Loud competition, a contest that encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition of great poetry -- and the first time the state finals will take place at the state Capitol on the Senate floor. The program starts at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, March 23, and is expected to finish at approximately 12:30 p.m.

"We are honored and excited to have the Poetry Out Loud state finals in the Senate chamber," said California Arts Council Director Muriel Johnson. "These students have worked so hard, and their artistry and skills will be complemented by the majesty of being in the state Capitol."

Hundreds of Californians have witnessed the California Poetry Out Loud finals, both live and on cable on the California Channel, which televises the competition each year and won a Telly Award for its edited version of Poetry Out Loud coverage in 2008. The Arts Council expects the 2009 finals will be standing-room only, based on the excitement the competition has generated statewide.

There will be competitors representing 24 counties in the California state finals -- winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to the spelling bee). Each state's Poetry Out Loud champion will win $200 and go on to compete at the national finals in Washington, DC in April, with their schools receiving $500 for poetry books, and each runner-up receive $100, with his or her school receiving $200 for books.

The state's Poetry Out Loud program is directed by the California Arts Council, and was initiated by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation. Local arts agencies and school districts conduct the program on the county level. The national initiative is part of an attempt to bring literary arts to students -- a critical need in U.S. schools, according to a 2004 NEA report Reading at Risk that found a dramatic decline in literary reading, especially among younger readers. The Poetry Out Loud program seeks to foster the next generation of readers and strengthen students' confidence in their public-speaking abilities by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry: recitation and performance.

Members of the press interested in California's Poetry Out Loud program should contact Mary Beth Barber at 916-322-6588, Space will be limited, so parties interested in bringing more than one or two people to view the competition in the Senate chamber should contact Poetry Out Loud coordinator Kristin Margolis at More general information, including a list of poems the students may choose to recite, can be found at . A summary of the NEA Reading at Risk report can be found at

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The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the Arts and Creativity. Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, Vice Chair Eunice David, Michael Alexander, Adam Hubbard, Charmaine Jefferson, Chong-Moon Lee, Fred Sands, Karen Skelton, Susan Steinhauser and William Turner.

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