Nashville — The 2021 Tennessee Poetry Out Loud (POL) champion is Kendall Grimes, a junior at Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, TN. The competition was held virtually in early March with a virtual showcase and awards ceremony held on Friday, March 12.
“I am absolutely thrilled to have the ability to compete in Poetry Out Loud this year, let alone win the championship again. I am so thankful for Ms. Handlesman’s coaching — I most definitely have the best teacher out there,” said Grimes. “I was blown away by my fellow state competitors’ performances, so I can only imagine what nationals will be like. While I will miss the opportunity to travel to D.C., I am still so excited that all of the hard work and talent of the State Champions will still be showcased.”
Grimes took home the state championship in 2019 as a freshman. She then traveled to compete nationally in Washington D.C.
Leah Handlesman, Grime’s teacher at Battle Ground Academy said, “I’m so proud of Kendall for winning her second POL State championship. While Kendall and I have always relished the process of working through the poems by teasing out nuanced meanings, in this pandemic year, I think we were better able to appreciate how special and important poetry is.”
This year’s statewide competition featured nine finalists from across Tennessee. The state champion will represent Tennessee as she goes to compete in the virtual National Semifinals on May 2, 2021. The competition will be streamed on arts.gov. Grimes will receive a scholarship award on behalf of the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Poetry Foundation.
“Poetry Out Loud is an incredible opportunity for all students to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn something new about themselves and others from across the state,” said TN Arts Commission Chair Jan McNally. “We celebrate the efforts of each teacher and student who participated in POL this year. It’s been a difficult year and we recognize your accomplishments.”
Samantha Cheek, a senior from Clayton-Bradley Academy in Alcoa is the first runner-up. Cheek will receive a prize award and the school will receive a stipend for the purchase of poetry books and supplies. Eden Carnes a homeschool student from Friendsville, TN is the second runner-up and Delaney Viner from Harding Academy of Memphis is the third runner-up. They will also receive prize awards. Poetry Out Loud will award a total of $50,000 in scholarship awards and school stipends at the National Finals, including a $20,000 award for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.
“It is wonderful to witness another year of impact Poetry Out Loud has had on Tennessee students in gaining speaking skills while learning about their literary heritage,” said Anne B. Pope, Executive Director, TN Arts Commission. “We wish Kendall the best of luck in the national competition.”
The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in partnership with the Tennessee Arts Commission presented POL 2021. The program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry, recitation and performance, building on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form.
Photo: 2021 Tennessee Poetry Out Loud State Champion, Kendall Grimes.