Al Young title

Robert Marchand will represent California in April’s 2011 Poetry Out Loud National Competition in DC


Monterey County’s Robert Marchand to represent California in Poetry Out Loud nationals

Mark Reifenheiser from Contra Costa County took second, and Phebe Hong from Sonoma County was third in an extremely close competition

© Brian Baer | California Arts Council

Finalists for the 2011 California Poetry Out Loud recitation contest line up onstage in Sacramento

© Brian Baer | California Arts Council

Robert Marchand, a senior at Pacific Grove High

• To read the original California Arts Council dispatch, click here
• Flickr photostream of California’s Poetry Out Loud 2011

Robert Marchand from Monterey County (a senior at Pacific Grove High School — age 18) took first place and will represent California in the national Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington, DC in April. Taking second was Mark Reifenheiser from Contra Costa County (a senior at Mt. Diablo High School, age 18), and Phebe Hong from Sonoma County (a junior at Santa Rosa High School, age 16) placed third.

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, Chair of the California Arts Council, found this year’s competition extremely hard to judge because of the overwhelming amount of talent. “I gave out so many perfect scores this year I’m surprised we could even find a winner,” said Feruzzi Shriver. “Any of these county champions could have represented California in Washington. We look forward to having Robert Marchand represent our great state in April.”

Al Young, former California Poet Laureate and also a judge in this year’s competition, was impressed with the 2011 California county champions — not only in the recitations, but also with their backgrounds and beliefs explained during the biographies portion of the event dinner on Sunday, March 20, 2011. “Given the energy, passion and intelligence of this year’s Poetry Out Loud performers, I have total faith that our future is in good hands,” said Young. “The shortsightedness of the world today may be overcome by young people like these.”

Being a judge in this year’s event cemented Young’s opinion that the arts are essential in the educational process. “If arts education and access to the arts were made available to children at younger grades, there would be fewer prisoners, fewer gangs and less anxiety and depression in our youth. The arts allow children and youth to express themselves, their lives, and their creativity — outlets that not only increase self confidence and societal interaction, but improve interest in learning and help form the productive and intelligent adults of tomorrow.”

Photo: Josie Talamantez

Al Young and Malissa Feruzzi Shriver, two of five judges for California’s Poetry Out Loud 2011, photographed March 20 at the Sheraton Grand Sacramento, where Round One of this year’s recitation competition took place.

Feruzzi Shriver noted the impact that Poetry Out Loud can have on students. “Programs like this can have a lasting impact on a young person,” said Feruzzi Shriver. “We have participants who come from group homes, from at-risk youth programs, or who hadn’t found a place until they found this program. I saw such pride in the parents and teachers today. I’m very proud that the California Arts Council works so hard to make this program work for thousands of high school students.”

“I would gladly write poems all year long for this year’s crop of participants to memorize and perform,” said Young. “They would be delivered with elegant accuracy by every single one.”

This year marks the sixth time the California Arts Council has produced the annual competition — the largest of its kind in the nation, with over 40,000 students in approximately 34 California counties participating. The program encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. The California 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 the spelling bee).

Marchand, as the California Poetry Out Loud champion, receives $200 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). He will go on to compete in Washington, DC in April, and his school will receive $500 for books. Reifenheiser, as the runner-up, receives $100 from the NEA, and $200 for books at his school.

The state’s Poetry Out Loud program is directed by the California Arts Council, and was initiated by the NEA and the Poetry Foundation. Local arts agencies and school districts conduct the program on the county level. The California Arts Council would like to thank the Target Corporation for sponsoring the state’s program and helping bring California Poetry Out Loud to as many California high school students as possible.

The agency is also indebted to the hardworking staff at the California Channel who allow the program to be broadcast and webcast, and to the California Department of Education and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson for their sponsorship of the event space on March 21, 2011, at the East End Complex Auditorium.

Interested in seeing the poems the students recited during Rounds One and Two? The California Arts Council posted them online?

Go to the California Arts Council original to see listings for Round Two — and more

© Brian Baer | California Arts Council

Kristin Margolis, manager of California’s Poetry Out Loud and Poet Laureate programs, readies this year’s eager county finalists for Round Two of the recitations.


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