March 8, 2021 – PoconoArts congratulates Taha Vahanvaty, a senior from Stroudsburg Area School District in Monroe County, who was named Pennsylvania’s 2021 Poetry Out Loud (POL) state champion. He will represent Pennsylvania in the National Finals, which will be held virtually and begin on May 2, 2021.
The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) hosted the state competition virtually this year. Executive Director Karl Blischke announced Vahanvaty as the state champion via Facebook. “I would like to commend not only Taha, as the 2021 Poetry Out Loud state champion, but also recognize all of our student competitors, who committed to and excelled at this program during an extraordinarily challenging year,” said Blischke. “Participation in the arts, and in programs like Poetry Out Loud, help students cultivate key skills that lead to success in school and the workplace, building Pennsylvania’s future pool of innovators and creative thinkers.”
Each of the 13 state POL competitors memorized and prepared three poems selected from print and online poetry anthologies. All 13 students performed in the first two rounds of competition, with the top five going on to compete in the third and final round. Students were judged on voice and articulation, physical presence, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance and accuracy. Taha’s recitations included these three poems:
- Brother, I’ve Seen Some, by Kabir
- If They Should Come for Us, by Fatimah Asghar
- Snowmen, by Agha Shahid Ali
The POL state champion receives $200 from the Poetry Foundation and, in non-pandemic years, an expense-paid trip to the national championship. The POL state champion’s school receives $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. At the national finals, a total of $50,000 in awards and school/organizational stipends is awarded annually.
Created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The contest is facilitated through the PCA, a state agency under the Office of the Governor, working with regional partner organizations.
More than 1,000 high school students participated in this year’s competition in 74 schools across Pennsylvania. Locally, ArtsQuest currently serves as one of the 13 Arts In Education regional partners for the PA Council on the Arts. Our region includes Northampton, Lehigh, Carbon, and Monroe Counties. Joanne Garcia, coordinator for ArtsQuest, handled the regional Poetry Out Loud contest this year. For more information about Poetry Out Loud, visit poetryoutloud.org.