California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

February 11, 2010Mary Beth Barber

Dozens of Students to Compete in California's Poetry Out Loud Finals in Senate Chambers

Standing-room only expected at event on Monday, March 15, 2010

Sacramento -

This year marks the second time the Senate Chambers will be the venue for the California Poetry Out Loud state finals. Policy debates and politics will be replaced by poetry recitations on March 15, 2010, as California county Poetry Out Loud finalists compete. The program starts at 8:30 a.m. and is expected to finish at approximately 12:30 p.m.

"The artistry and skill of the California Poetry Out Loud students that kept viewers on the edge of their seats was only one part of this program's success story," said California Arts Council Director Muriel Johnson. "The real meaning came from the thousands of high school students and others who learned about poetry and improved their language skills and creative-thinking processes."

This year is the fifth time the California Arts Council has produced the annual competition -- the largest of its kind in the nation, with over 40,000 students in approximately 27 counties participating. The program encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition of poetry. Last year the California State Finals were recorded by the multi-media staff in the Senate and televised live on the California Channel. The Arts Council expects the 2010 finals will be standing-room only, based on the excitement generated statewide.

The California finals is the state's 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 national Poetry Out Loud program began six years ago, and each state sends a winner to the national finals. The California Poetry Out Loud champion will win $200 and go on to compete in Washington, DC in April, with the winner's schools receiving $500 for poetry books. The California runner-up receives $100, with his or her school receives $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 and attending the State Finals and/or interviewing students on the eve of Sunday, March 14, 2010, should contact Mary Beth Barber at 916-322-6588, Members of the public should know that space will be limited in the Senate chambers, 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 on their website.

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 William Turner, Michael Alexander, Adam Hubbard, Charmaine Jefferson, Karen Skelton, and Susan Steinhauser.

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