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South Carolina High School Student Wins 2018 Poetry Out Loud National Championship, $20,000 Award

April 26, 2018
National Endowment for the Arts Senior Deputy Chairman Mary Anne Carter, 2018 Poetry Out Loud National Champion Janae Claxton, and Poetry Foundation Program Director Stephen Young. Photo by James Kegley.

CHICAGO—Last night, April 25, 2018, Janae Claxton, a senior at First Baptist School of Charleston from South Carolina, won the title of 2018 Poetry Out Loud National Champion and a $20,000 prize. Claxton won the final round with her recitation of “I Go Back to May 1937” by Sharon Olds.

The second-place winner was Nicholas Amador, a senior at Punahou School in Hawaii.

The third-place winner was Hope Stratman, a senior at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School in Nebraska.

Poetry Out Loud is a national initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Poetry Foundation and the state arts agencies that encourages high school students to learn more about great poetry, both classic and contemporary, through memorization and performance. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals took place in Washington, D.C. and included students from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Students and schools received $50,000 in awards and school stipends at the National Finals, including $20,000 for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists. The fourth- to ninth-place finalists each received $1,000. The schools of the top nine finalists received $500 for the purchase of poetry books.

Claxton has participated in Poetry Out Loud since 10th grade. Next up for her is studying political science at one of the several colleges to which she has been accepted. On her experience with the program, Claxton said, “[Poetry Out Loud] really does change your life. It really does have that power. For me, it changed my identity, made me see myself differently [and realize] I’m smart, I’m intelligent, I can do this." Visit the NEA Art Works blog in early May for an interview with the new champion.

The state champions competing at the National Finals also had the opportunity to showcase their creativity through an optional competition, Poetry Ourselves. The students could submit an original work of poetry in one of two categories: either a written poem or a video of a spoken poem, both of which were judged by poet Jamaal May and announced at last night’s National Finals. In the written category, Lauren Haiar from Sundance Secondary School in Wyoming placed first, with Xiadi Zhai, from Boston Latin School in Massachusetts named the runner up. In the spoken category, Gage Gramlick from Lincoln High School in South Dakota placed first, with Raina B. Verser from New Century Technology High School in Alabama named the runner up. Winning poems may be featured on the NEA and Poetry Out Loud websites.

Since 2005, more than 3.6 million students from across the country have participated in Poetry Out Loud. This year, 300,000 students from 2,300 schools across the country participated. High school teachers who want to learn how to get involved in next year's program can learn more at www.poetryoutloud.org

Photos and videos of the nine finalists who competed in the April 25 finals are available here.

Read more about the 2018 Poetry Out Loud National Finals at the NEA Art Works blog.

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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 literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit poetryfoundation.org.

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