California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

March 14, 2017Caitlin Fitzwater

Tuolumne County Student, Levi Lowe, Named California Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Chigozie Maduchukwu from Sacramento County and Nicholas Panyanouvong from Stanislaus County named first and second runners up in the state poetry finals

Levi Lowe on Monday, March 13th at the California Poetry Out Loud State Finals. Photo by Tia Gemmell courtesy of the California Arts Council.

SACRAMENTO - Levi Lowe, a senior at Sonora Union High School in Tuolumne County, took first place in the 2017 California state finals of Poetry Out Loud on March 13 and will represent the Golden State in Washington, D.C. at the national finals in April. This is the second time Levi has won the title of California State Poetry Out Loud Champion, winning the state competition previously in 2015.

Levi recited "The Death of Allegory" by Billy Collins, "Chorus Sacerdotum" by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville and "Self-Inquiry before the Job Interview" by Gary Soto. His teacher is Carol Woods. Levi stated, "Poetry Out Loud teaches empathy, and it teaches confidence. Empathy and confidence construct the artistic tongue."

Chigozie Maduchukwu, a senior at Pleasant Grove High School in Sacramento County, was the first runner-up and will represent California in the national finals if Levi is unable to attend. Chigozie was the 2016 California State Poetry Out Loud Champion. Nicholas Panyanouvong, a freshman at James C. Enochs High School in Stanislaus County was the second runner-up.

This year marks the twelfth time the California Arts Council has produced the state poetry competition, Poetry Out Loud - the largest of its kind in the nation, with more than 35,000 students in 44 California counties participating. An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

"The California Poetry Out Loud state final is an extremely competitive contest, and all the county champions are remarkable young men and women," said Craig Watson, Director of the California Arts Council. "California's extraordinary diversity and creativity is well represented in these talented young people who participated today, and we are delighted that Levi will represent California in the national finals."

A list of all of the county winners, their high schools, and the poems they chose can be found at

About Poetry Out Loud

The California Poetry Out Loud State Finals took place Sunday, March 12 with Round One at the Crest Theatre and Monday, March 13, with Rounds Two and Three in the Senate Chambers at the State Capitol. 

The California state final is the culminating competition in California between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to the spelling bee).

Levi Lowe, as the California Poetry Out Loud champion, receives $200 from the National Endowment for the Arts. He will go on to compete at the National Finals in Washington, DC this April, and his school will receive $500 for books. Chigozie Maduchukwu, as the runner-up, receives $100 from the NEA, and $200 for books at his school.

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The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California's diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Donn K. Harris, Vice Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Larry Baza, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Juan Devis, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Louise McGuinness, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at


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