California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

February 22, 2012Mary Beth Barber

Dana Gioia to Deliver Keynote at California Poetry Out Loud State Finals March 25-26

Former NEA Chairman joins the county winners in state Senate chambers on Monday, March 26--Competition to be webcast live

Sacramento -

Dana Gioia -- credited for launching the national Poetry Out Loud competition during his tenure as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts -- will deliver the keynote address at this year's California Poetry Out Loud state championship. The California Poetry Out Loud competition takes place on Sunday, March 25 (Round 1) and Monday, March 26 (Round 2 and Round 3), with the events on Monday to be webcast and potentially telecast live by the California Channel.

"We are honored to have the former Chairman be a part of this year's California Poetry Out Loud state finals," said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. Gioia, an acclaimed poet with experience in the corporate sector who served as Chairman of the NEA between 2003-2008, was appointed the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California (USC) in 2010. Gioia also directs the Harman-Eisner Program in the Arts at the Aspen Institute, grew up in Los Angeles, and is a leading expert on California poetry and literature.

"Dana was instrumental in creating this wonderful program that affects tens of thousands of teens in California and hundreds of thousands nationwide," continued Watson. "It's great to have him back in California at USC and part of our California Poetry Out Loud program this year."

This year marks the seventh 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 33 California counties participating. The program encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition of poetry.

The Arts Council's 2012 California Poetry Out Loud Finals will be sponsored by Target Corporation and is expected to be standing-room only, based on the excitement generated statewide and attendance in previous years. Rounds 2 and 3 of the California Poetry Out Loud State Finals are slated to be recorded by the multi-media staff in the Senate and televised and/or webcast live on the California Channel (, which won a Telly award in 2008 for their program on that year's state finals.

The Poetry Out Loud State Finals is California'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 California Poetry Out Loud champion will win $200 from the NEA 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 from the NEA, with his or her school receiving $200 for books. At stake for the national finals is approximately $50,000 in scholarships and related winnings.

Members of the press interested in California's Poetry Out Loud program should contact Mary Beth Barber at 916-322-6588, Sunday's events (Round 1) will take place at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento (1230 J Street, Sacramento). Members of the public should know that space will be limited at both locales -- the Sheraton and the Senate chambers -- so members of the public interested in attending the competition 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

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, Wylie Aitken, Michael Alexander, Andrew Green, Adam Hubbard, Charmaine Jefferson, Terry Lenihan, Susan Steinhauser, and Rosalind Wyman.

return to press releases