S.C. high schoolers reach state Poetry Out Loud finals

State finals scheduled for March 4 in Columbia


COLUMBIA, S.C. – Six South Carolina high school students earned the right to compete in March to see who’s best at the recitation and performance of poetry, then represent the state in a national competition.

The South Carolina Arts Commission coordinates Poetry Out Loud in South Carolina, partnering with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation to bring the competition to the state’s high school students. The program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry—recitation and performance.

Program Coordinator Bonita Peeples introduced a new structure to the 2022/2023 competition that blended the traditional, in-person approach with the more recent virtual competitions caused by the pandemic. Schools who registered held in-person competitions locally while individual students who registered performed virtually in front of judges who named finalists.

Emily Allison. Provided photo.

The finalists this year come from Charleston, Greenville, Myrtle Beach, and Spartanburg:

  • Emily Allison, junior, Fine Arts Center (Greenville), the 2021 and 2022 state champion
  • Meenakshi Balachandran, senior, Calvary Christian School (Myrtle Beach)
  • Eve Decker, freshman, Spartanburg Day School (Spartanburg)
  • Jessie Johnson, junior, Charleston County School of the Arts (Charleston)
  • Ella McCall, sophomore, Ashley Hall (Charleston)
  • Catherine Wooten, junior, Westgate Christian School (Spartanburg)

Judging the individual student competition were Paul Kaufmann, an actor an South Carolina Arts Commission Fellow in acting who was accuracy judge; Kimberly Simms Gibbs, poet and founder of Carolina Poets and Wits’ End Poetry in Greenville; and Al Black, a poet who is also host of numerous workshops and arts events in the Midlands. Thomas Maluck, Richland Library teen services librarian, was the prompter.

The next step for the six finalists is the state finals competition on Saturday, March 4, 2023 at 3 p.m. The finals return to an in-person format for the first time since 2019 and will be held at the Richland Library Main Branch (1431 Assembly St., Columbia). The state finals champion will receive a $200 prize and get to represent South Carolina in the national finals competition in Washington May 5-8, 2023 for the chance to win a $20,000 first prize. Find out more about the national competition here.

About the South Carolina Arts Commission

The mission of the South Carolina Arts Commission is to promote equitable access to the arts and support the cultivation of creativity in South Carolina. We envision a South Carolina where the arts are valued and all people benefit from a variety of creative experiences.

A state agency created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the SCAC works to increase public participation in the arts by providing grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in artist development, arts industry, arts learning, creative placemaking, and folklife and traditional arts. Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the SCAC is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts, and other sources. Visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696, and follow @scartscomm on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for #Arts4SC and #SCartists content.

South Carolina Arts Commission News Release, Media Contact: Jason L. Rapp, Communications Director. jrapp@arts.sc.gov or 803.734.8899