Aliyah Chutkan, a junior at Xavier College Prep in Phoenix, is Arizona’s 2021 Poetry Out Loud state champion. Next month, Chutkah will compete against high school students representing each US state and territory for the title of National Champion. The national semi-finals of the poetry recitation competition will be streamed online on May 2, 2021.

2021 Arizona State Finals

The Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Finals were held virtually this year, due to precautions related to the ongoing pandemic. Ten students, representing schools from across the state recited poems by a diverse array of literary luminaries from around the world, including Maya Angelou, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, and Judith Ortiz Cofer. After two rounds of recitations, four students advanced to the final round. From these four, Aliyah Chutkan was named State Champion while Sydney Ashby, a student at Herberger Young Scholars Academy in Phoenix, was named first runner-up.

A program of the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud is a poetry recitation competition delivered in high schools in all 50 states and three territories through partnerships with State Arts Agencies. Arizona’s Poetry Out Loud program is managed by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, an agency of the State of Arizona, with support from regional partners, University of Arizona Poetry Center, Northern Arizona University, and Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University.

2021 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Finalists:

(students in bold advanced to final round)

  • Sydney Ashby, Herberger Young Scholars Academy
  • Aliyah Chutkan, Xavier College Prep
  • Brett Clancy, Coconino High School
  • Isabella Constante, Sedona Red Rock High School
  • Karen Jie, The Gregory School
  • Zane Killian, Dobson Montessori High School
  • Arabella Licher, Sedona Red Rock High School
  • Lucia Iurino, The Gregory School
  • Anya Moseke, Tucson High Magnet School
  • Chariot Wadell, Herberger Young Scholars Academy

2021 Arizona Poetry Out Loud Judging Panel

An esteemed panel of judges evaluated the recitations:

  • Annika Clark, Phoenix Youth Poet Laureate 2021
  • Cymelle Edwards, Instructor of Critical Reading and Writing at Northern Arizona University
  • Edgardo Aguilar, 2019 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Champion
  • Hunter Hazelton, 2017 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Champion
  • Kelsi Vanada, Program Manager at The American Literary Translators Association
  • Kristen Nelson, Founder of Casa Libre en la Solana
  • Sophie Weinzinger, 2018 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Champion

“I have everyone who’s supporting me, my whole community backing me up.”

This was Chutkan’s first year competing at the state level. She recited poems by Richard Wilbur, Nick Flynn, and a translation of a poem by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, a 19th century Indian poet who wrote primary in Urdu.

Like her fellow competitors in this unusual year, Chutkan recited her poems not for an audience of peers in a school auditorium, but for a webcam in her own home. It wasn’t until she saw the reaction from teachers and classmates to the news of her advancement to the state finals that her solitary effort began to feel like something bigger. “It was kind of surprising how enthusiastic everyone I knew was about it,” said Chutkan. “How they were all rooting for me too, that I wasn’t alone, reciting these poems, I have everyone who’s supporting me, my whole community backing me up.

As State Champion, Chutkan receives a $200 prize while her school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. As runner-up Ashley receives $100 and her school receives $200 for the purchase of poetry books.

The Competition Continues

On Sunday, May 2, 2021, beginning at 9:00 am (PT), the Poetry Out Loud national semifinals will be available through a one-time-only webcast at arts.gov/poetry-out-loud. Each of the 55 state champions submit in advance video recordings of their poetry recitations, which will be reviewed and scored by judges with expertise in poetry, performance, and the literary arts. The recitations from all 55 students will be broadcast on May 2 as part of one of three regional semifinals, and will include the announcement of the top nine students (three from each region) who will advance to the final round.

On Thursday, May 27 at 7pm ET, the 2021 Poetry Out Loud national finals will be streamed at arts.gov/poetry-out-loud. The evening will feature pre-recorded recitations, live interviews with the top nine finalists, and the live announcement of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

A total of $50,000 in scholarship awards and school stipends are awarded at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, with a $20,000 college scholarship award for the National Champion.