2022 Missouri State Champion Ava Maupin, Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud

2022 Missouri state champion is Ava Maupin of Osage Beach
2023 state finals will be March 9 in Jefferson City

It’s Poetry Out Loud time again! Local and regional competitions are currently taking place throughout Missouri. The state finals will be held live in Jefferson City on March 9. The national finals will be May 8-10 in Washington, D.C.

Our 2022 Missouri state champion was Ava Maupin, then a sophomore at School of the Osage High School in Osage Beach. She went on to the virtual national semi-finals held on May 1, where she advanced to the second round of three.

Ms. Maupin “is a wonderful representative of the talent we have in the Missouri Poetry Out Loud Program,” said Virginia Sanders, the Missouri Arts Council’s veteran special initiatives coordinator. “I look forward to seeing her in the 2023 competition!” Our thanks and congratulations go to Ms. Maupin’s teacher, Lee Baker who has long supported Missouri’s program.

“The biggest reason I enjoyed being a part of Poetry Out Loud was because I could do something for my school,” Ms. Maupin said. “I’m not really the sports type, so I never thought I would be able to compete in anything related to school. There are normally a lot of accolades for sports, and being able to get some support for creative endeavors as well is great.”

For the Missouri and national finals, Ms. Maupin chose to perform these poems:

  • Propositions by contemporary American poet Stephen Dunn
  • Revenge by early 19th-century English poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon
  • Semi-Splendid by contemporary American poet Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate 2017-19

The runner-up in the Missouri state finals was Nick Merlo, a junior at Crossroads College Preparatory School in St. Louis. The national Poetry Out Loud program awards each state champion $200 and their school $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. The runner-up receives $100 and their school $200.

Poetry Out Loud encourages the study of great poetry by providing free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high school students across the country. Competitions start in individual high schools or with local organizations such as libraries and other nonprofits. The winners of one tier of competition advance to the next, ending at the national finals.

Poetry Out Loud helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. The program was created in 2006 by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and is supported by the Foundation, NEA, and state and jurisdictional arts agencies. Missouri has participated in Poetry Out Loud from the beginning. The Missouri Arts Council and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education work in partnership to bring Poetry Out Loud to Missouri.

Judges for the 2022 state finals, drawn from throughout the state, were Karen Craigo, Missouri Poet Laureate 2019-2021, Springfield; Shakira Cross, 2018 Missouri State Poetry Out Loud champion, Kansas City; Kelly Downes, executive director, Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, Cape Girardeau; Debora Grandison, poet, St. Louis; and accuracy judge Teresa Miller, digital expert, Hannibal.

Missouri’s regional champions of Poetry Out Loud 2022

Tyler Johnson, senior, Stockton High School, Stockton | Adianna Lynne, freshman, North Point High School, Wentzville | Ava Maupin, sophomore, School of the Osage High School, Osage Beach | Nick Merlo, junior, Crossroads College Preparatory School, St. Louis | Patrick Whiteford, junior, John Burroughs High School, Ladue | Erin William, junior, Pembroke Hill School, Kansas City

2021 state champion was Mattie Mills of Kansas City

On March 10, 2021, Madeline “Mattie” Mills, then an 18-year-old senior at Notre Dame de Sion High School in Kansas City, became Missouri’s 2021 state champion of Poetry Out Loud.The runner-up in the state finals was Hayley Knapik, a senior at Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves. Ms. Mills continued her journey to the national semi-finals on May 2.

“To me, poetry is a way to express emotions and abstract ideas that are normally difficult to put into words,” Ms. Mills said. “It is important to me because it gives me an outlet to express myself freely.”

Highlights of the 2021 Missouri state competition

17 years of Poetry Out Loud in Missouri

From the first national Poetry Out Loud in 2006 through today, these are Missouri’s state champions.

2022 | Ava Maupin, School of the Osage High School, Osage Beach
2021 | Mattie Mills, Notre Dame de Sion High School, Kansas City
2020 | Mary Margaret Hughes, Central High School, Springfield
2019 | Kate Brown, Stockton High School, Stockton
2018 | Shakira Cross, Hickman High School, Columbia
2017 | Emily Bauer, Parkway West High School, St. Louis County
2016 | Sarah Koo, Parkway North High School, St. Louis County
2015 | Maya Bryant, Holt High School, Wentzville
2014 | Thomas Fields, St. Louis University High School, St. Louis

2013 | Essence Imani Lee, Crossroads College Preparatory School, St. Louis
2012 | Cameron Locke, Stockton High School, Stockton
2011 | Terry Watkins, Jr., Crossroads College Preparatory, St. Louis
2010 | Nicole Andrews, Springfield R-12 Central High School, Springfield
2009 | Pete Winfrey, St. Louis University High School, St. Louis
2008 | Aryiel Everett, Park Hill South High School, Riverside
2007 | Michael Brown, Blue Springs High School, Blue Springs
2006 | Aislinn Lowry, Jefferson City High School, Jefferson City


Schools begin to register for Poetry Out Loud every fall at the beginning of the academic year. Check these resources to learn more about how the program works and the benefits it brings to students and schools. Also, contact Virginia Sanders, Missouri Arts Council special initiatives coordinator, at 314-340-6851 or virginia.sanders@ltgov.mo.gov.

  • Poetry Out Loud national program
  • National Endowment for the Arts pages about Poetry Out Loud
  • Poetry Foundation
  • Get Involved in Poetry Out Loud! video – Hear from students and teachers about why they love the program in this five-minute video. Missouri is prominently featured. There are comments from Thomas Fields, 2014 Missouri State Champion and one of only nine finalists in the 2014 nationals. There are also comments from Charles Hussung, teacher at St. Louis University High School at which Thomas was a senior, and from Virginia Sanders of the Missouri Arts Council, our Missouri Poetry Out Loud coordinator.
  • Letter from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to school superintendents describing the 2021-22 program and how Poetry Out Loud benefits schools
  • Article (PDF) by the National Association of State Arts Agencies lauding the program’s life-changing “power of poetry and partnership”