Spokane, Washington high school student receives $20,000 award at Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest
Washington, DC – Langston Ward, a high school senior from Spokane, Washington, has won the 2013 Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest. National Endowment for the Arts Deputy Chairman Patrice Walker Powell and Poetry Foundation Program Director Stephen Young announced the award at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals at Lisner Auditorium, The George Washington University in Washington, DC, last night.
Ward clinched the win with a stirring rendition of “The Bad Old Days” by Kenneth Rexroth. When asked why he chose the poem, he said “When I read it, the message that justice deserves attention, that’s something I want to communicate. The poem was calling me.”
As 2013 Poetry Out Loud National Champion Ward will receive a $20,000 award and his high school, Mead High School, will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.Ward earned the top spot among nine finalists, who competed Tuesday evening. Those nine advanced from the Monday semifinals, in which 53 students representing every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands matched skills in reciting classic and contemporary poetry from Shakespeare to Brenda Cárdenas.
The Poetry Out Loud National Finals is the culmination of a pyramid-structure competition that began last September among schools across the country. The nationwide poetry education program and competition involved more than 375,000 students and some 2,000 high schools across the country. Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Arts Endowment and the Poetry Foundation.
The second-place winner was the Maryland State Poetry Out Loud Champion Blessed Sheriff, a sophomore at Richard Montgomery High School and a resident of Gaithersburg, Maryland, who received a $10,000 award. The Oklahoma Champion, Denise L. Burns, a senior at Lawton High School in Lawton, Oklahoma, received the third place prize and a $5,000 award. Each of the nine finalists received at least a $1,000 award, and their schools received $500 each for the purchase of poetry books.
The other six finalists were: Illinois State Champion Rapheal K. Mathis, Plainfield East High School, Plainfield, Illinois; Minnesota State Champion Oluwatosin Oyeyemi Ajagbe, Woodbury High School, Woodbury, Minnesota; Nebraska State Champion Russell Heitmann, Thayer Central Community Schools, Hebron, Nebraska; New Jersey State Champion Kavita Oza, The Peddie School, Hightstown, New Jersey; Texas State Champion, Maria Jose Zuniga, Coppell High School, Coppell, Texas; US Virgin Islands Champion Josae Martin, Charlotte Amalie High School, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. For a full list of all 53 state finalists, visit arts.gov.
All of the Poetry Out Loud State Champions were accompanied by their State Arts Agency coordinators. All State Arts Agencies played a pivotal role in implementing Poetry Out Loud at more than 2,000 high schools nationwide.
The host for the event was Anna Deavere Smith, award-winning playwright, actress, and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship Award. Guest judges were poets Patricia Smith and Eduardo Corral; BBC Correspondent Jane O’Brien; Kevin Dyels, director of the Interpreting Services Division of TCS Associates; and Tree Swenson, executive director of the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. The featured performer was Ben Sollee.