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Poetry Out Loud

Congratulations to Thomas Fields, the Missouri State Champion of the 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest. He competed against the nine other regional champions, who rose to the top among more than 5,000 students who participated in competitions beginning at the classroom level. A senior at St. Louis University High School, Mr. Fields was the first runner-up in the state finals in 2013. He goes on to the national finals held in Washington, D.C. on April 28-30.

Poetry Out Loud is open to all high school students and conducted in all 50 states by the National Endowment for the Arts. The program encourages students to experience great poetry through memorization and recitation, and builds their public speaking skills and self-confidence. The competition uses a pyramid structure in which the classroom-level winners advance to a school-wide competition, then a regional competition, then a state competition, and ultimately to the national finals.

The 2014 Missouri State Finals took place on March 13 at the Harry S. Truman Building in Jefferson City. Sara Ashbaugh, a senior at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, was first runner-up. Mr. Fields as Missouri champion receives an all-expenses-paid trip with parents or other chaperones to the national finals. At the finals, winners will receive $50,000 total in scholarships and school stipends, with a $20,000 college scholarship for the Poetry Out Loud national champion.

Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure that starts at the classroom level. Winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to a regional competition, then to a state competition, and ultimately to the national finals. The Missouri regional events took place in January and February throughout the state. Our congratulations and thanks go to the regional champions:

  • Central:  Sara Ashbaugh, senior, Rock Bridge High School (Columbia)
  • Kansas City North:  Kyle McDonald, junior, Kansas City Academy
  • Kansas City South:  Alyssa Moncure, sophomore, Notre Dame de Sion High School
  • Northeast:  Ali Walker, senior, Troy Buchanan High School (Troy)
  • Northwest:  Alex Hall, freshman, St. Joseph Home School Group
  • Southeast:  Reagan Kapp, senior, Notre Dame Regional High School (Cape Girardeau)
  • Southwest:  Enoch Bradshaw, senior, Stockton High School (Stockton)
  • St. Charles County:  Thomas Fields, senior, St. Louis University High School
  • St. Louis City:  Essence Imani Lee (2013 Missouri State Champion), senior, Crossroads College Preparatory School
  • St. Louis County:  Sam Pointer, junior, Affton High School (Affton)


Front row: Ali Walker, Reagan Knapp, First Lady Georganne Wheeler Nixon, First Runner-Up Sara Ashbaugh, Alex Hall
2nd row: Enoch Bradshaw, Missouri Poet Laureate William Trowbridge, Missouri State Champion Thomas Fields, Missouri Department of Economic Development Director Mike Downing, Kyle McDonald, Alyssa Moncure
Unavailable for the photograph: Essence Imani Lee, Sam Pointer.

Mr. Fields won his regional and state victories with these poems:
“The Way It Sometimes Is” by Henry Taylor
“Sestina: Like” by A.E. Stallings
“The Canonization” by John Donne

Our thanks go as well to the judges of the 2014 Missouri State Finals:

  • Jessica Baran – poet; adjunct lecturer, Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art; director, fort compound for the arts; St. Louis
  • Emily Frankoski – community arts coordinator, Connect2Culture; art director, Pif Magazine; Joplin
  • Debbie Nichols – freelance copy editor; Hannibal
  • Dr. Jane Reed – literature teacher and coordinator, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, North Kansas City High School; Kansas City
  • Rusty Rosenkoetter – director, Office of Quality Schools, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; Jefferson City


2015 Program

If you think your school might be interested in participating in the 2015 Poetry Out Loud competition and would like to learn more, check these resources. The Missouri State Finals will take place on March 12.

  • Guidelines for teachers
  • A letter from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education designed to inform your superintendent about how the program benefits the school
  • A June 8, 2012 article courtesy of the National Association of State Arts Agencies by their executive director, Jonathan Katz, lauding the program’s life-changing benefits for students and “the power of poetry and partnership”
  • General information about the national Poetry Out Loud competition, including lists of poems eligible for use

For more information, contact Virginia Sanders, Missouri Poetry Out Loud coordinator, at 314-340-6851 or virginia.sanders@ded.mo.gov.

The Missouri Arts Council and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have partnered to bring Poetry Out Loud to Missouri. The contest was created in 2006 by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, and is administered in partnership with the state arts agencies of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

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