Foundation News

Langston Ward Wins 2013 Poetry Out Loud Finals

By Kristin Gecan


Last week, after approximately nine months of competition and more than 375,000 competitors, Langston Ward of Spokane, Washington took top honors as the 2013 Poetry Out Loud National Champion. Ward wowed the judges—and the crowd—with recitations of “The Gift” by Li-Young Lee, “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” by Walt Whitman, and “The Bad Old Days” by Kenneth Rexroth. Kristin Gecan interviewed him just after he pocketed $20,000.

Kristin Gecan: What are some other poems you really like, or poets you like?

Langston Ward: I’m a Carl Sandburg fan… [I also like] “Chicago,” which I read about a year following. Beyond that, though, Sam Green—who was our first Washington poet laureate—I was introduced to him at the state competition this year, and I was really drawn to his work.

KG: Do you share poetry with your friends or family?

LW: Not really. This has kind of encouraged me to get more open about poetry with other people. This is the only format that I’ve really opened up with sharing poetry.

KG: What would you tell students interested in Poetry Out Loud who haven’t yet participated?

LW: Don’t write it off just because it’s poetry, or [because of] what you’ve heard about poetry, or as a theater thing. Give it a chance. There are over 700 poems in the database, and it’s impossible for you to not find something that you can connect with and you can relate to.

KG: How long do you think these poems or your interest in poetry in general, will stay with you?

LW: For the rest of my life. That’s a no-brainer for me. I still remember the poems I memorized as a sophomore, and last year’s, and obviously this year’s. Beyond that, I don’t think this is ever going to go away from me.

Learn more about Poetry Out Loud and introduce the program to high school students in your area. Participants can win thousands of dollars, plus poetry books for their schools.

Originally Published: May 14th, 2013