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State Historical Society of Iowa

Sioux City student wins state poetry championship

Mar 5, 2017

DES MOINES – While basketball tournaments command the state's attention this month, 15 Iowa high school students vied for a championship of another kind today.

Grace Kiple of Sioux City's LAMB School of Theatre and Music captured the 2017 Poetry Out Loud in Iowa state championship today with compelling recitations of "The Cross of Snow" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "Dear Reader" by Rita Mae Reese and "Entirely" by Louis MacNeice. Esther Oge Ubadigbo of Des Moines Central Academy took second place and Elise Sturgeon of Sioux City North finished third. The program was held at the State Historical Building in Des Moines.

With the victory, Kiple received a $200 cash prize, plus $500 for her school to purchase poetry books, and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she will represent Iowa in the Poetry Out Loud National Finals April 25-26. Students from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will compete for the national championship and $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends.

"It's (exciting) to participate in Poetry Out Loud because it gets kids looking at the meaning of poetry with a great incentive at the end," Kiple said. "I am thrilled to represent Iowa at the National Finals and want to thank my parents and coach, Diana Wooley, for their support."

This year, more than 1,100 Iowa students participated in Poetry Out Loud programs at school and district levels, memorizing and reciting poems in front of their classmates and judges. The experience can be nerve-wracking, but it helps them develop public-speaking and critical-thinking skills that will last a lifetime.

Created in 2005 by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, the program is overseen in Iowa by the Iowa Arts Council, which partnered with ArtForceIowa this year to expand the program to under-served student populations. The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation provide state arts agencies free, standards-based curriculum materials for use by participating schools, including an on-line poetry anthology, a program guide to help instructors teach recitation and performance, and an DVD.CD.

Student competitors are judged on accuracy, physical presence, voice and articulation, appropriateness of dramatization, evidence of understanding and overall performance. This year's judges were the Des Moines musician Max Wellman and two Iowa Artist Fellows, the Nevada poet Jennifer L. Knox and the Cedar Rapids performance artist Akwi Nji.

Overall, more than 300,000 students across the country participated in the program this year.

A list of Iowa’s past state Poetry Out Loud champions follows:

  • 2016 - Grace Beumler of Sioux City Heelan
  • 2015 - Josie Kasik of Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School
  • 2014 - Josie Everett of Sioux City’s LAMB Arts Regional Theatre
  • 2013 - Dakota Meyer of the Iowa School for the Deaf
  • 2012 - Gwen Morrison of Marshalltown High School
  • 2011 - Grace Rants of Sioux City East High School
  • 2010 - John-Emmett Mahon of Sioux City’s PeaceMakers Academy
  • 2009 - Mia Pierson of Roland-Story
  • 2008 - Emily Mortvedt of Roland-Story
  • 2007 - Spencer Gilbert of West Des Moines Valley
  • 2006 - Ashley Baccam of Des Moines East

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.