For Immediate Release

Poetry Foundation and NEA Announce Kristen Dupard as 2012 Poetry Out Loud National Champion

High school student receives $20,000 award in national poetry recitation contest

May 16, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. — From a competitive field of some 365,000 students nationwide, Kristen Dupard, a senior at Ridgeland High School in Ridgeland, Mississippi, won the title of 2012 Poetry Out Loud National Champion at the National Finals held in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. With her achievement, Dupard also received a $20,000 award and her high school, Ridgeland High School, received a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.

The Poetry Out Loud National Finals were held at the Harman Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C. Dupard was among nine finalists and 53 state champions from across the country who participated in the seventh national poetry recitation contest, sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

A two-time Mississippi State Champion, Dupard has made two trips to Washington, DC to compete in the national recitation contest. It was her first year to advance from the Poetry Out Loud Semifinals. Dupard’s final recitation for the evening was “Invitation to Love,” a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, widely acknowledged as the first important black poet in American literature. Dupard also recited Philip Levine’s “What Work Is” and Cornelius Eady’s “I’m a Fool to Love You.” Dupard named current U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine’s “What Work Is” as her favorite poem; she found it “especially relevant since so many people have worked hard to get here to the National Finals.”

The second-place winner in the 2012 Poetry Out Loud national competition was Claude Mumbere of Burlington, Vermont, who received a $10,000 award. MarKaye Hassan of Logan, Utah, received the third-place prize and a $5,000 award.

In addition, the 4th – 9th place finalists each received a $1,000 award, and their schools received $500 each for the purchase of poetry books. The other finalists were Samuel Opoku (Thornton, CO); Gwen Morrison (Marshalltown, IA); Russell Heitman (Hebron, NE); Jessica Kariisa (Raleigh, NC); Daphnee R. McMaster (Reading, PA); and Langston Ward (Spokane, WA). 

Guest judges presiding over the final rounds of competition on Friday night included poets Marilyn Chin and Major Jackson; PBS Newshour’s Jeffrey Brown; radio host Garrison Keillor; and the executive director of the Poetry Society of America, Alice Quinn.

Guest judges evaluating recitations during the semifinal rounds on Monday included poet and commissioner of the Social Security Administration Michael Astrue, poet and non-fiction writer Sandra Beasley, poet and teacher Jennifer Chang, poet and educator Kyle Dargan, National Executive Director of Young Audiences Arts for Learning David Dik, poet and physician Frederick Foote, poet and teacher Diana García, poet and teacher Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, and actor Craig Wallace.

On May 15, 53 high school students—Poetry Out Loud champions from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—recited poetry in three semifinal rounds based on geographic region. Nine students advanced to compete in the National Finals on May 16. Judges evaluated student performances on criteria including physical presence, articulation, evidence of understanding, level of difficulty, and accuracy. Students performed poems from the Poetry Out Loud print and online anthologies (www.poetryoutloud.org). The event was the culmination of a pyramid-structure competition that began last September in more than 2,255 high schools across the country. 

The National Finals are the result of efforts by many partners. The NEA and the Poetry Foundation have contributed support for administration of the program, educational materials, and prizes for both the State and National Finals. Each State Arts Agency implemented the program in high schools in each state, often in collaboration with local arts organizations. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals were administered by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

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 seventh year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud has inspired thousands of high school students to discover classic and contemporary poetry. To find out how to get involved in the 2013 Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest, visit www.poetryoutloud.org.

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Poetry Out Loud Partnerships
The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are the culmination of many partners' efforts. As national partners, the NEA and the Poetry Foundation have contributed support for administration of the program, educational materials, and awards for both the state and national finals. State arts agencies have implemented the program in high schools nationwide and organized state competitions, often in collaboration with local arts organizations. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Schools interested in registering for next year’s Poetry Out Loud should contact their state arts agency. More information is available at www.poetryoutloud.org.

Poetry Out Loud Educational Materials
The NEA and the Poetry Foundation provide free, standards-based curriculum materials for use by participating schools. These materials include print and online poetry anthologies containing more than 650 classic and contemporary poems, a teacher’s guide, video footage of performances from the National Finals, and audio tracks about the art of recitation. Schools are welcome to download these resources at www.poetryoutloud.org.

Contests and Awards
Using a pyramid structure, Poetry Out Loud starts with classroom and schoolwide activities and contests between September 2011 and February 2012. State contests were held by mid-March; the 53 champions of contests in every state, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC compete at the national finals. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will present a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends for the purchase of poetry books. Awards include $20,000 for the Poetry Out Loud national champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists. Each state-level final has awarded $1,000 in cash to the champion, runner-up, and their schools. In total, Poetry Out Loud will award more than $100,000 to state- and national-level winners.

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About the Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative partnerships, prizes, and programs. Opened to the public in June 2011, the Poetry Foundation building in Chicago provides new space for the Foundation’s extensive roster of public programs and events. It also houses a public garden, a library, and an exhibition gallery, as well as the offices of the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine. For more information, please visit www.poetryfoundation.org.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at www.arts.gov.

About Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation develops partnerships and programs that reinforce artists’ capacity to create and present work, advance access to and participation in the arts, and promote a more sustainable arts ecology.

Follow the Poetry Foundation and Poetry on Facebook at facebook.com/poetryfoundation or on Twitter @PoetryFound.

POETRY FOUNDATION | 61 W. Superior St. | Chicago, IL 60611 | 312.787.7070 | Media Contact: Stephanie Hlywak, 312.799.8016; shlywak@poetryfoundation.org 

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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