Poetry Out Loud Tennessee State Champion, Kendall Grimes, Advances to the National Finals

Poetry Out Loud

From Michelle Sipes, Arts Learning Specialist –  

We are delighted to announce that the Poetry Out Loud Tennessee State Champion, Kendall Grimes, was named one of only nine finalists to advance to the National Finals! Kendall competed this weekend in the national semifinals against 55 other students. The Finals event will be held via Livestream at on Thursday, May 27th at 6 pm CT/7 pm ET.

Actor and writer Shaun Taylor-Corbett will host the evening of recitations by the top nine finalists, with live interviews with the students and the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion announcement. Please join us in celebrating Kendall’s remarkable achievement!

About TN State Champion Kendall Grimes:

“I am absolutely ecstatic to have the opportunity to represent TN in the Poetry Out Loud National Finals. Not only have I been given this chance to compete, but I am confident beyond doubt that I have had the best coach and support system out there to help me get to this point. Being a Finalist is such an accomplishment in itself, but I hope that it is not the last accomplishment I come across! I wish the best of luck to the other Finalists.”

In addition to being the two-time TN state champion for POL, Kendall plays volleyball, basketball, softball, and runs track. She is involved in student government; is the new student leader of Battle Ground Academy’s poetry club, Poetry Friday; is on the Student Diversity Committee; is a Peer Leader; is a member of BGA’s Artist Guild; plays guitar and sings; and performs the national anthem at school athletic events.

Kendall’s teacher and POL coach, Leah Handelsman says, “I am so proud of Kendall! She’s not only an exceptionally hard worker, but she feels her poems deeply and is so nuanced in her delivery. It has been a privilege being her coach the last three years.”

The Commission would like to send a big congratulations to all nine National Finalists this year!

The 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Finalists are:

  • Alabama Champion Soojin Park (Auburn High School)
  • Colorado Champion Aidyn Reid (Fountain Valley School)
  • Nebraska Champion Alexandra Rose Zaleski (VJ and Angela Skutt Catholic High School)
  • South Dakota Champion Rahele Megosha (Washington High School)
  • Tennessee Champion Kendall Grimes (Battle Ground Academy)
  • Texas Champion Samuel Eluemunoh (Saint Mark’s School of Texas)
  • U.S. Virgin Islands Champion Kaden A. Hughes (Antilles School)
  • Vermont Champion Irén Hangen Vázquez (Burr and Burton Academy)
  • West Virginia Champion Ben Long (Notre Dame High School)


Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the TN Arts Commission. This national program encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students, helping them to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life.

New Study on the Impact of Poetry Out Loud

Line by Line: Transforming Student Lives and Learning with the Art of Poetry presents findings from an evaluation of Poetry Out Loud that involves data collection from ten sample schools assessing the program’s impact on  poetry appreciation and engagement, social and emotional development, and academic performance. A fact sheet summarizing the results is also available.