Sylvia Dale, a senior at Ganado High School in Apache County, will represent Arizona at the 15th Annual Poetry Out Loud national finals competition in Washington, DC, April 27 – 29, 2020.

The Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Finals were held at Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix on Saturday, March 7. Ten students, representing schools from Tucson to Ganado, a chapter of the Navajo Nation, recited poems by a diverse array of literary luminaries, including Jimmy Santiago Baca, Maya Angelou, and Natalie Diaz. After two rounds of recitations, four students advanced to the final round. From these four, Sylvia Dale was named State Champion while Oscal Landa Samano, a student at Coconino High School in Flagstaff, 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, Phonetic Spit, and Andrea Lenhart, a Flagstaff-based poet and lecturer at Northern Arizona University.

2020 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Finalists:

(students in bold advanced to final round)

  • Sophia Crevelt, University High School
  • Sylvia Dale, Ganado High School
  • Karen Jie, The Gregory School
  • Amayah Kelly Willow Canyon High School
  • Drew Kolber, Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy
  • Kyley Jones, Phoenix Coding Academy
  • Oscar Landa Samano, Coconino High School
  • Riley McKinney, Tucson Magnet High School
  • Julia Murphy, Arizona Schools for the Arts
  • Christina Schweiss, Sedona Red Rock High School

2020 Arizona Poetry Out Loud Judging Panel

An esteemed panel of judges evaluated the recitations:

  • Jia Oak Baker, poet
  • Hunter Hazelton, educator and poet
  • Dominique Daye Hunter, is a poet/spoken word/hiphop artist
  • Sareya Taylor (White Mountain Apache/Navajo), Phoenix Youth Poet Laureate

“We are here and we are still going to move forward”

This was Sylvia’s third year competing at the state level. She recited poems by Mary Lamb, Claude Mckay, and Natalie Diaz, a Mojave poet and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe.

Speaking with press after the event, Syliva commented on what drew her to Diaz’s work, “I really connected with her poem about the idea of Native Americans always being moved and looked down upon,” Dale said. “I really love her poem and how it demonstrates that we are here and we are still going to move forward.”

As State Champion, Dale receives $200 and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, DC, (with an adult chaperone) to compete at the National Finals. Additionally, her school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. As runner-up Oscar Landa Samano receives $100 and his school receives $200 for the purchase of poetry books.

The Competition Continues

The Poetry Out Loud national semifinals will be held in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, April 28, at Lisner Auditorium at The George Washington University. Nine finalists will then advance to the national finals, also held at Lisner Auditorium, on Wednesday, April 29.

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.