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Illinois Arts Council Agency Announces Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Press Release - Monday, March 11, 2013

From a competitive field of nearly 6,000 students from across the state, Rapheal Mathis, a senior from Plainfield East High School in Plainfield, received the title of 2013 Poetry Out Loud Illinois State Champion at the statewide competition hosted by the Springfield Area Arts Council in Springfield, on Friday, March 8, 2013. Mathis recited “Silence” by Thomas Hood, “Buick” by Karl Shapiro, and “The Gift” by Li-Young Lee. Cat Harmon, a senior from Auburn High School, Rockford, won first runner-up with recitations of “Ah! Why, Because the Dazzling Sun” by Emily Brontë, “I felt a Funeral in my Brain, (340)” by Emily Dickinson, and Rebecca Lindenberg’s “Carnival”.  Mr. Mathis will advance to the national competition to be held in Washington, D.C., in mid-April. If Mr. Mathis is unable to attend, Ms. Harmon will represent Illinois at the national contest.

The Illinois State Champion Rapheal Mathis received an award of $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete for the national championship. Mr. Mathis’ school received a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. First runner-up Cat Harmon received $100, with $200 for her school library.

Other contestants in the Illinois State Contest were:
Charday Crawford, Southeast High School (Springfield); Melissa Daniels, Homewood-Flossmoor High School (Flossmoor); Kristin Doty, Agape Christian High School (Marion); Brianna Gray, United Township High School (East Moline); Shelby Hoffman, Orion High School (Orion); Raymond Hutchison, Taft High School (Chicago); Annie Kefalas, St. Teresa High School (Decatur); Janjay Knowlden, Central High School (Champaign); Anna Lepke, Jefferson High School (Rockford); Miona Short, Walter Payton High School (Chicago); Emily Swanson, Edwardsville High School (Edwardsville); Alexx Valdez, Urbana High School (Urbana); Lexxi Warner, Alton High School (Alton); and Bryce Wiley, Agape Christian School (Marion).

Contest staff for the 2013 Illinois State Contest included recitation judges Jason Lee Brown (Champaign), poet, editor, and teacher; Frank Chipasula (Carbondale), poet, editor, professor; Phil Funkenbusch (Springfield), Chief of Interpretive Theater, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency; and Peter Palermo (Lebanon), Director, Hettenhausen Center for the Arts. Théa Chesley (Springfield), librarian and poet, was the accuracy judge, and Lori Beckham (Springfield) was the prompter. Bob Jessup served as scorekeeper. Judges evaluated student performances on criteria including voice and articulation, physical presence, evidence of understanding, dramatic appropriateness, level of difficulty, and accuracy.

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. Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, (in Illinois) to a regional competition, then the state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, D.C. At the state finals in Springfield, Poetry Out Loud contestants recited works they selected from an anthology of more than 680 classic and contemporary poems. Now in its seventh year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud has inspired hundreds of thousands of high school students to discover classic and contemporary poetry. The Poetry Out Loud anthology, a website,, a teacher’s guide, and media samples of poetry recitation were created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation as free educational resources for high school students and teachers.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in conjunction with state arts agencies, support this nation-wide program with participants from all fifty states plus Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. For information about the Poetry Out Loud program, visit  The Illinois Arts Council Agency implements Poetry Out Loud statewide in collaboration with seven regional not for profit arts partners. For more information regarding Illinois' regional and school Poetry Out Loud competitions, please contact the partnering organization directly:

• Central Illinois: Springfield Area Arts Council, Sheila Walk,
email:, phone: 217/753-3519
• Chicagoland (City & Suburbs): Literature for All of Us, Liz McCabe, email:, phone: 847/869-7323
• Eastern Illinois: 40 North/88 West (Champaign), Amanda Baker,
email:, phone: 217/351-9841
• Northern Illinois: Rockford Area Arts Council, Sharon Nesbit-Davis,
email:, phone: 815/847-5382
• South Central Illinois: Jacoby Arts Center (Alton), Melissa Crockett,
email:, phone: 618/789-4626
• Southern Illinois, Carbondale Community Arts, Nancy Stemper,
email:, phone: 618/457-5100
• Western Illinois, Quad City Arts (Rock Island), Tracy Alan White,
email:, phone: 563/579-7630

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