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Chariho Regional High School student represents RI in the national Poetry Out Loud competition

Semifinals and national competitions to be virtual, May 2 and May 27

Chariho Regional High School's Virginia Keister of Hope Valley represents Rhode Island in the national Poetry Out Loud memorization and recitation competition. She competes in the semifinals, Sunday, May 2, at noon, and if she qualifies, will be in the finals, Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m. Both competitions will be streamed online during a webcast at

Keister, the winner of the state competition in March, is one of 55 finalists from throughout the country. She will compete by reciting from memory classic and contemporary poems. All 55 compete in the semifinals. Nine will advance to the finals, and the nine finalists will compete on Thursday, May 26, at 7 p.m. The 2021 national Poetry Out Loud winner receives $20,000; $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists, respectively.

On behalf of the RI State Council in the Arts, Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of RISCA, said, "We wish Virginia our very best as she competes on a national stage. We thank the Poetry Out Loud team here in RI for overcoming the challenges of this difficult year to ensure RI held the recitation competition. I encourage Rhode Islanders to tune in and support Virginia's work, as well as the inspiring accomplishments of these students who put in many hours of practice and rehearsal to reach this incredible milestone."

Actor, singer-writer Shaun Taylor-Corbett will host the 2021 Poetry Out Loud national finals. For the 2021 national finals, the judges are Cathy Linh Che, Eduardo C. Corral, Gabriel Cortez, Idris Goodwin, Elisa New and Branden Wellington.

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies. In Rhode Island, the POL team is led by Martha Lenihan Lavieri. She has been the veteran program coordinator for RI Poetry Out Loud since 2013. RI Poetry Out Loud employs two teaching artists as coaches, Kate Lohman and Damont Combs.

Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, DC.?Since its inception, 3.6 million students from 14,000 high schools nationwide have participated in Poetry Out Loud. This year, all preliminary school competitions and visits with teaching artists were done virtually. Students rose to the challenges presented by the pandemic to showcase their love and appreciation for poetry during this atypical school year.

Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest inspires high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performances and competition. Poetry Out Loud ( is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country.

National Endowment for the Arts was 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 NEA website.

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 partnerships, prizes and programs. For more information, visit its website.