California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

February 15, 2008Mary Beth Barber

Poetry Out Loud California State Finals

California has more participants than any other state in the acclaimed recitation competition for high school students

Sacramento -

At stake: $200 and the chance to compete for the over $20,000 available at the nationals. The competitors: high school students from 20 counties throughout California. The place: the Secretary of State's auditorium at 1020 "O" Street in Sacramento at 11:00 a.m. The tools: as Shakespeare said, "words, words, words." And the contest: Poetry Out Loud.

This year marks the third time the California Arts Council has produced the Poetry Out Loud competition, a contest that encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition of classical poetry. The program was started by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, and is fulfilled in the states by the state arts agencies. Local arts agencies and school districts implement the program on the county level. With 147 schools statewide partaking in the program, California has the most number of schools participating in Poetry Out Loud of all the states. California also has the greatest increase in number of schools over a year's time, with 87 new participating schools in 2007-08.

"Young people interested in rap and slam contests can be surprisingly interested in classical poetry when it's presented through the Poetry Out Loud competition," said Muriel Johnson, Director of the California Arts Council. "We've seen students from all backgrounds and academic levels embrace this program wholeheartedly. It can change their lives."

Schools throughout the state held contests in much the same manner as the national spelling bee--first starting in the classroom, then the school, local level (school district and/or county), then state level. The California Poetry Out Loud champion will win $200, and his or her school receives $500 for poetry books, then will go on to compete in the national finals in Washington, DC on April 28-29, 2008. The California runner-up receives $100, with his or her school receiving $200 for books.

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 literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry--recitation and performance.

Members of the press interested in California's Poetry Out Loud program should contact Mary Beth Barber at 916-322-6588, The NEA's Poetry Out Loud web page has more information, and calls for the national Poetry Out Loud program headed by the NEA should be directed to Sally Gifford at 202-682-5606. More general information can be found at

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California Poetry Out Loud
Participating Counties, State Finals Information
and County Competition Dates
* some details may not be known at time of press release posting

March 14, 2008--11:00 am
Secretary of State Auditorium
1020 "O" Street
Sacramento, CA 95814


Marin County
February 9, 2008--11:00 am
Falkirk Cultural Center, San Rafael

Lake County
February 10, 2008--1:00 pm
Main Street Gallery, Lakeport

Tuolumne County
February 13, 2008--6:00 pm
Dogwood Forum, Columbia College, Sonora

Humboldt County
February 16, 2008--2:00 pm
Sanctuary Stage, Eureka Theater, Eureka

San Diego County
February 19, 2008--(time TBD)
Maxine Theatre, Valley Center

Ventura County
February 20, 2008--4:00 pm
High Street Arts Center, Moorpark

Nevada County
February 20, 2008--6:30 pm
Imaginarium of Nevada County, Nevada County

Monterey County
February 20, 2008

Placer County
February 21, 2008--6:00 pm
Roseville High School, Roseville

Santa Barbara County
February 21, 2008--5:30 pm
Mural Room, County Court House, Santa Barbara

Sonoma County
February 22, 2008--7:00 pm
Chops Teen Center, Santa Rosa

Contra Costa County
February 23, 2008--7:00 pm
School House Cultural Center, Pleasant Hill

Fresno County
February 25, 2008
Fresno City Hall, Fresno

Los Angeles County
February 26, 2008
Alhambra Theater, Los Angeles

Sacramento County
February 26, 2008--12:30 pm
Inderkum High School, Sacramento

San Luis Obispo County
February 27, 2008
San Luis Coastal Unified School District, SLO

Siskiyou County
February 27, 2008--1:00 pm
Ford Theater, College of the Siskiyous, Weed Campus

Madera County
February 28, 2008--7:00 pm
Yosemite High School, Oakhurst

Mendocino County
March 4, 2008--3:30 pm
Arena Theater, Point Arena

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 Michael Alexander, Vice Chair Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, Eunice David, Charmaine Jefferson, Chong-Moon Lee, Carlos Martinez, Michael Rubel, Fred Sands, Karen Skelton and William Turner.

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