Illinois Arts Council Agency Announces Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Annabelle Emuze, a senior from Southeast High School in Springfield,
received the title of 2015 Poetry Out Loud (POL) Illinois State Champion at the statewide competition hosted by the Springfield Area Arts Council in Springfield, on Friday, March 13, 2015. In Illinios, 63 high schools, 552 teachers, and 9300 students participated in Poetry Out Loud in the classroom and in after-school programs. Ms. Emuze recited “Celebration for June 24” by Thomas McGrath, “The Blackstone Rangers” by Gwendolyn Brooks, and “Let the Light Enter” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Grace Anderson, a junior from University of Chicago Lab School, Chicago won first runner-up with recitations of “A Nnarrow Ffellow in the Ggrass (1096)” by Emily Dickinson, “Insomnia and the Seven Steps to Grace” by Jo Harjo, and William Matthews’ “Onions”. Ms. Emuze will advance to the national POL competition to be held in Washington, D.C., April 28 – 29. If Ms. Emuze is unable to attend, Ms. Anderson will represent Illinois at the national contest.

The Illinois State Champion Annabelle Emuze received an award of $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete for the national championship. Ms. Emuze, coached by her teacher Teresa Holton, has also won her school a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. First runner-up Grace Anderson, coached by her teacher Carolyn Walter, received $100, with $200 for her school library.

The Illinois State Contest featured recitations by two students from each of eight Poetry Out Loud regional contests in the state:  Alton, Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago-City, Chicago-Suburbs, Rockford, Rock Island, and Springfield.   

Regional POL contest winners participating in the Illinois State Contest included:

Student Name




Isiah Brighton

Central High School

LaDonna Wilson


Mariah Brooks*

Southeast High School

Teresa Holton


Clare Bunyan

Cobden High School

Nick Grossman


Johnetta Burks

Jefferson High School

Douglas McArthur


Malec Caudell

Freeburg High School

Natalie Wesbecher


Shelby Hoffman

Orion High School

Andrew Lister


Kaniah Jackson

Stephen T. Mather High School

Daniel Rutkowski


Sarah Lantsberger

Gibault Catholic High School

Erin Allen


Giana Moreno*

Trinity High School

Margaret Metzger

River Forest

Aimee Osborne

Orion High School

Andrew Lister


Luke Rebman

Agape Christian High School

Julianne Doty


Nafisa Sayed

University Lab High School

Elizabeth Majerus


Desiree Warren*

Jefferson High School

Douglas McArthur


Ella-Marie West

Evanston Township High School

Julie Mallory



Contest staff for the 2015 Illinois State Contest included:

Recitation Judges: Tommy Hensel, actor and Managing Director, Moraine Valley Community College Fine and Performing Arts Center, Palos Hills; Kathleen Kirk, poet, actor, teacher, Normal; Jorge Sanchez, poet, teacher, Chicago; Accuracy Jjudge: Théa Chesley; Prompter: Mark McKnight; Scorekeeper: Bob Jessup; and Master of Ceremonies: Jim Leach. Judges evaluated student performances on criteria including voice and articulation, physical presence, evidence of understanding, dramatic appropriateness, level of complexity, and accuracy.

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, (in Illinois) to a regional competition, then the state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, D.C. At the state finals in Springfield, Poetry Out Loud contestants recited works they selected from an anthology of more than 900 classic and contemporary poems. Now in its tenth year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud has inspired hundreds of thousands of high school students to discover classic and contemporary poetry. The Poetry Out Loud website, a teacher’s guide, and media samples of poetry recitation were created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation as free educational resources for high school students and teachers.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in conjunction with state arts agencies, support this nation-wide program with participants from all fifty states plus Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. For an in-depth look at the national Poetry Out Loud program, visit

Photo Credit: William Richards