SACRAMENTO, CA – Eden Getahun of Sacramento County has been named this year’s California Poetry Out Loud state champion. The 16-year-old junior from C.K. McClatchy High School took first place in the statewide recitation competition on March 15 & 16.
The 2020 State Finals marked the 15th year of the program for high school students, which encourages youth to learn about poetry through memorization and performance. All but five of California’s counties participated in this year’s event, with 53 student champions competing for the title. In response to the state’s current COVID-19 public health emergency, the finals were modified to be a virtual competition. An event program listing all participants and judges can be viewed at this link at www.capoetryoutloud.org/finals.
Inyo County’s champion, Erik Martinez, a senior at Owens Valley High School, submitted his three prepared poems, “Apollo” by Elizabeth Alexander, “April Love” by Ernest Dowson, and “Sonnet 55: Not marble nor the gilded monuments” by William Shakespeare, via recorded video along with all the other competitors. About this year’s competition, Martinez said, “my experience in Poetry Out Loud was way beyond what it was. I will admit having to record the three poems was something unexpected, but I understand the circumstances as to why. As county winner I was surprised to progress to state, and it showed me that “the impossible is indeed possible.” Martinez won the Inyo County title on February 5th at the county-wide competition, hosted and administered locally by Inyo Council for the Arts.
“For 15 years, California Poetry Out Loud has been an opportunity to hear, honor, and celebrate the emerging voices of our state’s young people,” said California Arts Council Executive Director Anne Bown-Crawford. “Despite this year’s necessary format change, we were once again astounded by the presence, passion, and artistry of each of the participants. Poetry as an art form is a powerful entry point for these students to learn both the strength of the words they speak, and the change that creative expression can effect.”
The California Poetry Out Loud State Finals is the culminating competition between county winners who have shown their merit in the classroom, school, district, and county (a pyramid competition structure similar to a spelling bee). California’s Poetry Out Loud is the largest event of its kind in the U.S. and has grown steadily since its inception. The 2020 competition series encompassed 53 counties, 282 schools, and 769 teachers, reaching nearly 56,000 students statewide.
Aiyana Sha’neil Da’Briel, a senior at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles County, was runner-up in this year’s competition. Gabrielle Trapse, a junior at Tulare Union High School and Tulare County champion, took third place.
An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, administered by the California Arts Council, Poetry Out Loud inspires in high school students the confidence to make themselves heard, using one of the most powerful tools at their disposal—art. Students are given the opportunity to interact with the words of the masters through recitation, building a relationship with the works and creating a sense of shared ownership branded by their own technique of volume, pitch, pace, and personal point of view.
This year’s competition was the second opportunity for California’s county champions to submit original written works at the state level through the Poetry Ourselves creative writing contest. The winning piece, an untitled personal examination of racial injustice, was written by Napa County Poetry Out Loud champion Malia Cruz, a 17-year-old senior at Vintage High School. Sixteen-year-old Cloitzel Mayte Ahumada, a junior bat Colusa High School in Colusa County, was runner up for her submission titled “La Batalla.” County champions Eden Getahun of C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento County and Sadie Richert of San Luis Obispo Classical Academy in San Luis Obispo County both received honorable mentions for their original works, “Forget” and “Photographs.” All four contestants’ poems will be featured on the California Poetry Out Loud website, www.capoetryoutloud.org.