Literature

Colorado’s 2021 Poetry Out Loud Champion Heads to Nationals Tonight

Aidyn Reid will appear as the Colorado winner of Poetry Out Loud on May 27.
Aidyn Reid will appear as the Colorado winner of Poetry Out Loud on May 27. Poetry Out Loud
If you have fond memories of reading Shel Silverstein’s funny, sad, touching and endlessly awesome poetry from his seminal 1974 collection Where the Sidewalk Ends, then you’re in good company: Colorado’s most recent Poetry Out Loud champ does, too.

“When I was young,” says Aidyn Reid, “my mom would read me Where the Sidewalk Ends. ... I definitely find myself attracted to satirical work and even silly poetic work like Seuss.”

As she has grown up, she's begun to see poetry in all aspects of life.

"Everyone, whether they are engaged and aware of it [or not], is 'interested' in poetry," she says. "Poetry is everywhere, and even narrative writing is poetic.”

The Colorado Springs teen is one of nine high school students advancing to the Poetry Out Loud national finals, which will be webcast on Thursday, May 27, at 5 p.m. The presentation will include video recordings, submitted in advance, of the finalists' recitations, selected from an anthology of more than 1,100 classic and contemporary poems.

Judges will review and score the recitations based on criteria including physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy. A total of $50,000 in awards and school or organizational stipends will be given out, including a $20,000 award for the national champion, $10,000 for second place, $5,000 for third place, and $1,000 for fourth through ninth places. The representing schools and organizations associated with each of the top nine finalists will receive $500 for the purchase of poetry materials.

Colorado’s Poetry Out Loud program is sponsored by Colorado Creative Industries, the National Endowment for the Arts and Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

“Over the last year, so many of us have turned to the arts to find inspiration as a way to get through this pandemic, and we’re thrilled to see a young Colorado leader taking her talents to the national level," says Governor Jared Polis. "We are all proud of Aidyn’s accomplishment and will be cheering for her on May 27.”

Margaret Hunt, director of Colorado Creative Industries, adds: “Amanda Gorman at the presidential inauguration showed us all the power of spoken-word prose. It has the power to inspire us, to move us and to touch us profoundly. We are thrilled that Aidyn has reached the national competition and have no doubt she will represent Colorado arts well.”

“Americans have always turned to poetry for a variety of reasons: inspiration, solace, self-expression, among others," Lighthouse Writers Workshop notes. "Colorado youth in the Poetry Out Loud program are often drawn to poetry that opens them to a world of experience they have not yet lived, whether it’s that of someone who lived two hundred years ago, or others living today who’ve had a very different experience from their own, perhaps because of their age, or race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or class, or religion. They’re also looking for a bit of themselves through poetry.

"Poetry often captures a moment through sensory experience, and right now, people seem very attuned to hearing and understanding the experiences of others while also connecting with something human and alive within themselves," Lighthouse concludes. "Like we see in Amanda Gorman’s work, poetry can name a problem while also providing hope to overcoming the problem. What American, especially today’s tweens and teens, couldn’t use a little more of that type of paradox in their lives right now?"

The Poetry Out Loud webcast will take place at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 27. For more information, go to the NEA website.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen