Media Contact - Washington:
Michael Wallenfels
Communications Manager
ArtsWA/The Washington State Arts Commission
PO Box 42675 Olympia, WA 98504
2023 Poetry Out Loud Champion Matthew Valentine.
Matthew Valentine from Olympia High School was named the 2023 Poetry Out Loud Washington State Champion on Saturday, March 11. Photo by Pavel Verbovski.
Matthew Valentine named 2023 Poetry Out Loud State Champion
Valentine will now compete in National Final in Washington D.C.

Note: a previous version of this release listed the incorrect date of the National Final. They will be held May 8-10.

OLYMPIA, WA – Matthew Valentine, a senior at Olympia High School in Thurston County, is the 2023 Washington State Poetry Out Loud Champion. Rising to the top from a competitive field of nearly 12,000 students from 38 schools across the state, Valentine was among the 9 high school students—all regional Poetry Out Loud champions—who competed in the State Final.
The State Final competition was held on Saturday, March 11 at Tacoma Little Theatre. The event was emceed by Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Sah Pham and featured music by the Kareem Kandi World Orchestra.
Andrea Gyimah, a sophomore at Annie Wright Upper School for Girls in Pierce County, was named first runner-up. Honorable mention went to Keegan Raub, a sophomore from Lake Stevens in Snohomish County who represented in the Poetry Out Loud Virtual program.
The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will take place May 8-10 in Washington, D.C. Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. It is coordinated in Washington State by ArtsWA (the Washington State Arts Commission). Poetry Out Loud encourages the study of poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country.
“POL pushes me to be creative because you have to read so many poems in order to pick,” said 2023 Washington State Champion Matthew Valentine. “I read through dozens and dozens before I found the ones (I chose) and I found so many poems that—even if they weren’t for me—were amazing.”
High school students from across Washington State took the stage at the Tacoma Little Theatre on March 11 for the Washington State Poetry Out Loud Final. Photo by Pavel Verbovski.
All participating students begin by choosing and memorizing poems from the official Poetry Out Loud anthology, a collection of over 1,100 classic and contemporary poems. Students must have three poems prepared for the State and National Finals. Valentine’s poems included The Mortician in San Francisco by Randall Mann and NUMBERS by Mary Cornish, with And If I Did, What Then? by George Gascoigne as the final recitation.
Video from the final will be released on YouTube by March 21.
Poetry Out Loud advances participating students from classrooms to school-wide competitions. Each school sends its top student to a regional competition. This year, ArtsWA partnered with four organizations to support school participation and regional competitions across the state: Spokane Arts in Eastern Washington, Yakima Valley College in Central Washington, Skagit River Poetry Foundation in Northwest Washington, and Educational Service District 112 in Southwest Washington. ArtsWA partnered with Tacoma Little Theatre to coordinate the pilot of POL Virtual, which allows students from schools who do not register and home-schooled students to participate.
Student recitations are judged according to the Poetry Out Loud evaluation criteria, which include physical presence, voice and articulation, evidence of understanding, and accuracy.
The 2023 Poetry Out Loud State Final judges included:
  • Heidi Aijala, Associate Director of Secondary ELA at the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Andre Bouchard, Washington State Arts Commissioner
  • Mayra Cortes, Secondary Educator with Tacoma Public School District #10
  • Ashly McBunch, Olympia’s current Poet Laureate, and U.S. Army retired veteran
  • Kate Myre, Faculty at Cornish College of the Arts
  • Heide Fernandez-Llamazares, Manager for My Public Art Portal at ArtsWA
As the Washington State Champion, Matthew Valentine will receive an award of $200 and the opportunity to compete at the national championship. Olympia High School will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. First runner-up Andrea Gyimah will receive $100, with $200 for Annie Wright Upper School for Girl’s library.
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
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
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
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