On Saturday, March 11 at Tacoma Little Theater, Olympia High School senior Matthew Valentine was selected as this year’s winner of the 2023 Poetry Out Loud (POL) competition for Washington State. Valentine was one of two finalists from the Southwest Washington region to compete, and was one of just nine high school students out of a competitive field of nearly 12,000 students from 38 high schools across the state to make it to the Washington State Final.

“This incredible honor is a testament to countless hours of hard work and practice by our student winner,” said ESD 112 Superintendent Tim Merlino. “We are incredibly proud of Matthew and all the young people who dedicated their talent to their year’s competition. Well done.”

Performing The Mortician in San Francisco by Randall Mann and NUMBERS by Mary Cornish, followed by And If I Did, What Then? by George Gascoigne as his final recitation, Valentine gave a heartfelt performance.

“The first time I heard Matthew recite the poem, The Mortician in San Francisco, I was transfixed,” said Valentine’s teacher at Olympia High School (OHS), Carolyn Gilman. “During my 15 years of leading the Poetry Out Loud program at OHS, we’ve been fortunate to have a student qualify for the State competition 10 times. Seeing Matthew awarded top honors this year was absolutely thrilling!”

Student recitations are judged according to the national Poetry Out Loud evaluation criteria, which focuses on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, accuracy and overall performance.

Presented in partnership with ArtsWA, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation, POL is a national program that encourages high school students to learn about poetry – both classic and contemporary – through memorization, performance, and competition.

As the Washington State Champion, Valentine will receive a $200 award and the opportunity to compete at the national championship taking place May 8-10 in Washington, D.C. At the national finals, $50,000 in awards and school/organizational stipends will be distributed. As the school of this year’s state champion, Olympia High School will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials.


View the digital program from the State Final.

Video from the Washington State Final at Tacoma Little Theater will be released and shared on YouTube by March 21. (insert link, once available)


About Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to 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 poetryoutloud.org.

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

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 arts.gov.

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 poetryfoundation.org.

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 arts.wa.gov.