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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Knoxville Student Wins "Poetry Out Loud" State Competition

Summer Awad is Tennessee's 2011 Poetry Out Loud State Champion.
Summer Awad is Tennessee's 2011 Poetry Out Loud State Champion.

Summer Awad will represent Tennessee at national competition in April

March 14, 2011

NASHVILLE, TN — From a competitive field of 34 students from across the state, Summer Awad of Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville was named the 2011 Poetry Out Loud State Champion.

For her final recitation, Awad selected the poem, "For the young who want to" by Marge Piercy, a poem about how artistic success takes compromise and sacrifice.

"I love poetry and the arts, so this has been a really great experience for me," said Awad. "I am really looking forward to participating on the national level. I think it will be a wonderful experience to be exposed to different poetry, and to meet the people from other states."

Awad will receive awards totaling $1,200 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she will represent the state in the national competition on April 27-29.

The state finals were held Saturday, March 5 on the campus of Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn. The day-long event involved three rounds of competition.

The first runner-up was MaryBeth Yancey from Dickson County High School in Dickson, Tenn. She received $600, with $200 for her school library.

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high school students across the country. Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, D.C.

According to Ann Talbott Brown, arts education project coordinator for the Tennessee Arts Commission, more than 320,000 students from nearly 2,000 high schools around the country took part in Poetry Out Loud in 2009-2010. At the recent state finals, contestants recited works they selected from an anthology of more than 650 classic and contemporary poems.

"We congratulate Summer on this great accomplishment, and we wish her the best as she represents Tennessee in the National Finals," said Rich Boyd, executive director of the Tennessee Arts Commission. "There were many talented students participating and the competition was extremely tough this year."

Judges evaluated student performances on criteria including physical presence, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty, and accuracy. Guest judges included Ethan Castelo, instructor of English at Middle Tennessee State University; Blas Falconer, associate professor of creative writing at Austin Peay State University; Malcom Glass, retired director of the writing program at the Center for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University; Richard Jackson, professor of creative writing at University of Tennessee Chattanooga; Whitney Jo, managing director of Playhouse on the Square; and Stephanie Pruitt, instructor of English at Vanderbilt University.

Poetry Out Loud seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by building on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the popularity of rap music among youth. Through Poetry Out Loud, students can master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. Now in its sixth year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud has inspired hundreds of thousands of high school students to discover classic and contemporary poetry.

To find out how to get involved in the 2012 Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest, visit