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Media contact:

Michael Wallenfels

Communications Manager

ArtsWA/The Washington State Arts Commission

PO Box 42675 Olympia, WA 98504


The 2024 Poetry Out Loud Finalists left to right: Leki Albright of Liberty Bell High School, Honorable Mention; Sydney Frost of Mt. Spokane High School, Runner-Up; Blaze Rowan of Olympia High School, Champion. Photo by Pavel Verbovski.

Blaze Rowan named 2024 Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Rowan will now compete in National Semi-Final in Washington, D.C.


OLYMPIA, WA – Blaze Rowan, a senior at Olympia High School in Thurston County, is the 2024 Poetry Out Loud Washington State Champion. Rising to the top from a competitive field of nearly 9,000 students from 42 schools across the state, Rowan was among the 9 high school students—all regional Poetry Out Loud champions—who competed in the State Final.

The State Final competition was held on Saturday, March 9, at Tacoma Little Theatre. The event was emceed by Tacoma poet and educator Asha Berkes.

Sydney Frost, a junior at Mt. Spokane High School in Spokane County, was named runner-up. Honorable mention went to Leki Albright, a senior at Liberty Bell High School in Okanogan County.

Rowan will represent Washington State at the Poetry Out Loud National Semi-Final on May 1 in Washington, D.C. The Finals will be held immediately after, on May 2. Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. It is coordinated in Washington State by ArtsWA (the Washington State Arts Commission). Poetry Out Loud encourages the study of poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country.

"Poetry Out Loud has greatly enhanced my love for poetry, and has served as an incredible learning experience for me," said Blaze Rowan. "I have absolutely loved how positive this experience has been, as the competitive nature takes a back seat to the experience of sharing poetry with a group of like-minded youth."

All participating students begin by choosing and memorizing poems from the official Poetry Out Loud anthology, a collection of over 1,100 classic and contemporary poems. Students must have three poems prepared for the State and National Finals. Rowan’s poems included [What horror to awake at night] by Lorine Niedecker and History Lesson by Natasha Trethewey, with Epitaph by Katherine Philips as the final recitation.

Selected video highlights from the event will be released on ArtsWA’s You Tube channel in the coming weeks.

Poetry Out Loud advances participating students from classrooms to school-wide competitions. Each school sends its top student to a regional competition. This year, ArtsWA partnered with four organizations to support school participation and regional competitions across the state: Spokane Arts in Eastern Washington, Yakima Valley College in Central Washington, Skagit River Poetry Foundation in Northwest Washington, and Southwest Puget Sound Community College in Southwest Washington. ArtsWA partnered with Tacoma Little Theatre to coordinate POL Virtual, which allows students from schools who do not register and home-schooled students to participate.

Student recitations are judged according to the Poetry Out Loud evaluation criteria, which include physical presence, voice and articulation, interpretation, evidence of understanding, and accuracy.

The 2024 Poetry Out Loud State Final judges included:

•   Heidi Aijala, Faculty at South Puget Sound Community College

•   Michelle Avitia, Arts in Public Places Program Coordinator, ArtsWA

•   Lou Oma Durand, Washington State Arts Commissioner

•   Heidi Fernandez-Llamazares, My Public Art Portal Manager, ArtsWA

•   Jasmine Mahmoud, Washington State Arts Commissioner

•   Kate Myre, Faculty at Cornish College of the Arts

As the Washington State Champion, Rowan Blaze will receive an award of $200 and the opportunity to compete at the National Semi-Final. Olympia High School will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. First runner-up Sydney Frost will receive $100, with $200 for Mt. Spokane High School’s library.

About Poetry Out Loud


Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. Poetry Out Loud gives students an opportunity to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. To find out how to get involved in the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest, visit


Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Artsthe Poetry Foundation, and Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA).


Read more about Poetry Out Loud in Washington State.


About the National Endowment for the Arts


Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America's rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit


About the Poetry Foundation


The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit


About ArtsWA


ArtsWA is the Washington State Arts Commission, a state government agency established in 1961. ArtsWA works to be a catalyst for the arts, advancing the role of the arts in the lives of individuals and communities throughout the state. Programs include Art in Public Places, Arts in Education, Grants to Organizations, and other special projects. For more information visit

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