California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

February 04, 2011Mary Beth Barber

More than 30 students to Compete in California's Poetry Out Loud Finals in Sacramento

Standing-room only expected at event on Sunday, March 20 and in the Senate Chambers on Monday, March 21, 2011

Sacramento -

Students from 35 counties are slated to compete this year in the annual California Poetry Out Loud finals on Sunday and Monday, March 20 and 21, 2011. This year marks the third time the state Senate Chambers will be the venue for the California Poetry Out Loud state finals on Monday, and the agency and staff in the Capitol plan to have the event televised and webcast live on the Cal Channel.

Because of the large number of county winners in the 2011 Poetry Out Loud program, the event has been split into two sections: Round 1 will take place on the afternoon of Sunday, March 20 at the Sacramento Sheraton Grand at 3:00 p.m., while Round 2 and Round 3 will take place on the state Senate floor starting at 8:00 a.m. on Monday. The California Arts Council expects to announce the winner at approximately noon on Monday, with the results televised live by the Cal Channel.

"We have so many counties sending Poetry Out Loud winners this year to the state finals that we have to split the event into two days," said Marilyn Nielsen, Interim Director of the California Arts Council. "This demonstrates the popularity of the program statewide, with California having the largest number of high school students participating in the nation, learning about poetry and improving their language skills and creative-thinking processes."

This year marks the sixth time the California Arts Council has produced the annual competition -- the largest of its kind in the nation, with over 40,000 students participating around the state. The program encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization and performance. For the last two years, 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 2011 finals will be standing-room only, based on the excitement generated statewide.

The California state 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 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.

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.

The California Arts Council would like to thank the Target Corporation for sponsoring the state's program and helping bring California Poetry Out Loud to as many California high school students as possible. The agency is also indebted to the hardworking staff in the state Senate and at the California Channel who allow the program to be broadcast and webcast live.

Members of the press interested in California's Poetry Out Loud program and attending the State Finals and/or interviewing students on the afternoon of Sunday, March 20, 2011, 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

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California Poetry Out Loud 2011
Participating Counties*

Contra Costa
El Dorado
Los Angeles
San Bernardino
San Diego
San Francisco
San Luis Obispo
San Mateo
Santa Barbara
Santa Cruz

* subject to change

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, Karen Skelton, and Susan Steinhauser.

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