March 18, 2014

Contact: Steve Wilcox

 Arizona Commission on the Arts Announces 2014 Poetry Out Loud State Champion
13,000 Arizona high school students participated in Arizona Poetry Out Loud

PHOENIX, AZ (March 18, 2014) – Out of nearly 13,000 Arizona high school competitors, Matthew Kaplan, a junior at Tesseract School in Phoenix, Arizona, was selected as the Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Champion at the finals event held on March 15, 2014 in Tucson. Arizona Poetry Out Loud is a program of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, facilitated in partnership with the Young Writers Program at Arizona State University and The Poetry Center at the University of Arizona. Kaplan will represent Arizona at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals competition in late April.

As the Arizona Poetry Out Loud state champion, Kaplan receives a $200 cash award and an all-expenses-paid trip to the national finals. His school also receives $500 to purchase poetry books for its library. Runner-up in the Arizona competition, Leah Weinzinger, a junior at Coconino High School, receives $100, and her high school receives $200 towards the purchase of poetry books for the school’s library.

The Arizona Poetry Out Loud 2014 state finals competition event was sponsored by Polsinelli and held on the campus of University of Arizona. Judges for the finals event included Shelley Cohn (Phoenix), arts & culture organization consultant and former Executive Director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts; Russ Kick (Tucson), writer, editor, and publisher; Pat McMahon (Phoenix), radio and television personality; and Seth Muller (Flagstaff), journalist, author, and playwright. Judges evaluated student performances on criteria including voice and articulation, physical presence, evidence of understanding, dramatic appropriateness, level of difficulty, and accuracy.

Participating students compete at the classroom and school level. 62 school-level finalists competed in one of three regional competitions (northern, central or southern) to advance to the state level. Including Kaplan and Weinzinger, nine students – three from each region – were recognized as finalists in the state competition:

Shaylin Renfro, Mesa High School, Mesa

Denis Healy, Brophy College Preparatory, Phoenix

Daniel Rosenberg, St. Gregory College Preparatory, Tucson

Sorrel Fivecoat, Tucson Magnet High School, Tucson

Mark Niadas, St. Augustine Catholic High School, Tucson

Adriana Hurtado, Tri-City Preparatory High School, Prescott Valley

Willy Torres, Kingman High School, Kingman

“The students work hard to get to the finals,” said Robert C. Booker, Executive Director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. “Watching such a diverse group of exceptional young people from around the state stand tall, recite, and display their understanding and love of poetry is truly remarkable and inspirational. These young people learn skills through this competition that will serve them for a lifetime.”

Tucson-based poet, performer, DJ, and educator Logan Phillips emceed the event. Alberto Álvaro Ríos, Arizona’s inaugural Poet Laureate, appeared as a special guest and recited some of his own work for an appreciative audience.

About Poetry Out Loud
Poetry Out Loud, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry—recitation and performance. Poetry Out Loud invites the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into the English class. Through Poetry Out Loud, students can master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage. For further information regarding Poetry Out Loud, visit

About the Arizona Commission on the Arts
One of 56 state and jurisdictional arts agencies across the United States, the Arizona Commission on the Arts is an agency of the State of Arizona that supports a statewide arts network. The Arizona Commission on the Arts supports access to quality arts and arts education opportunities for all Arizona citizens; the development and retention of statewide jobs in the nonprofit arts, culture and education sectors; and increased economic impact in local communities through arts-based partnerships that develop tax and small business revenue.

We imagine an Arizona where everyone can participate in and experience the arts.

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To request this or any other agency publication in an alternative format, contact the Arts Commission offices at (602) 771-6502.

Images available upon request.