California Arts Council

State of California

Santa Barbara County's Spencer Klavan wins 2009 California Poetry Out Loud; Monterey County's Kylie Tressa Gael Batlin takes second
Klavan and Batlin tie for first, repeat poem in unprecedented "fourth round"

Published: 03-23-2009

After five students competed in the third and "final" round for California Poetry Out Loud, the judges were in a predicament: two students were tied for first place. Rather than make a snap decision, the judges asked to again hear one poem from each student. When it was over, the winner took first by one tenth of one percent.

Spencer Klavan, winner of the California Poetry Out Loud state finals, greets Kylie Tressa Gael Batlin, runner-up, in the State Senate Chamber on March 23 while Dwight Sanders (right) of Sacramento County looks on. Klavan won by less than 1/10 of 1 percent. Photo by Steven Hellon, State of California

Spencer Klavan from Santa Barbara County (Laguna Blanca School) took first and will represent California in the national Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington, D.C. in April. Taking second was Kylie Tressa Gael Batlin from Monterey County (Pacific Grove High School). Sean Peters from San Luis Obispo County placed third. Two other students -- Bounrod Xiong of Fresno County (Roosevelt High School) and Ani Bezirdzhyan of Los Angeles County (Clark Magnet High School) -- also competed in the final round, but were unranked.

Spencer Klavan, from Laguna Blanca School in Santa Barbara County, took first place in the 2009 California Poetry Out state finals at the state Senate Chamber on March 23. Photo by Steven Hellon, State of CaliforniaJudges and spectators alike were amazed at the performances from the students. "I work on the national finals every year, and this is like being at the national finals," said Sarah Bainter Cunningham, Director of Arts Education for the National Endowment for the Arts, who was also one of the California Poetry Out Loud judges. "I was thinking every time one of you got up here -- the top five, and beyond the top five -- I was imagining you on the stage at nationals."

Klavan recited What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why by Edna St. Vincent Millay for the first round; Madmen by Billy Collins for the second round; and Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold for the third. He repeated Madmen for the fourth "sudden death" round with Batlin. Batlin recited Theme for English B by Langston Hughes for her first round; Ma Rainey by Sterling A. Brown for her second round; and O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman for the third round. She repeated Ma Rainey for the fourth round. (See the list of all 24 students' first and second round choices, with links to the poems.)

Kylie Tressa Gael Batlin, from Pacific Grove High School in Monterey County, took second place at the 2009 California Poetry Out Loud state finals. Photo by Steven Hellon, State of CaliforniaThis year marks the first time the California Poetry Out Loud state finals took place on the floor of the California State Senate chamber -- and the first time the competition was televised live throughout California via the Cal Channel. The entire event will be re-broadcast on the Cal Channel on the follow days and times:

Saturday, March 28: 6:00 A.M.
Sunday, March 29: 12:00 A.M.; 1:30 P.M., 8:00 P.M.
Monday, March 30: 9:00 A.M.
Friday, April 3: 7:00 P.M.
Saturday, April 4: 12:00 A.M.; 6:00 P.M.

See the website info page for cable channel information throughout the state, or view the webcast online (should be available by the morning of Monday, March 30). 

The California Arts Council expresses its gratitude to the California State Senate, the Senate's television tech crew, to the Cal Channel -- and to the talented, wonderful and brave competitors from 2009 California Poetry Out Loud.

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