CPC student poet wins Illinois Poetry Out Loud 2021

The Chicago Poetry Center is now in its 4th year as Chicagoland Regional Host Organization for the national youth poetry competition, Poetry Out Loud.

In February 2021, teens from Chicago area city and suburban schools competed in the Chicagoland regionals for a spot at the statewide Poetry Out Loud poetry recitation competition and a chance to advance to the national competition in Washington DC in May to win $20,000!

Despite the many challenges created by the pivot to a remote national contest, students were able to submit videos of their recitations to be judged by our panel, and judges could conduct their work remotely. The first and second places from each region (city and suburbs) then progressed to the Illinois state competition level. The Illinois State Contest featured recitations by two students from each of eight Poetry Out Loud regions in the state:  Central, Chicago-City, Chicago-Metro, Eastern, Northern, South-central, Southern, and Western.

Catherine Herrera  (Taft High School, Chicago), became the 2021 Illinois State champion in the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest.  The competition was held virtually earlier this week.  Herrera now will advance to the virtual national competition in May. Riley Tomes from Wheaton-Warrenville High School was declared the runner-up.  Rounding out the top five was also Candice Epps (Rolling Meadows High School).  Statewide, in total, 3079 students and 84 teachers from 26 schools participated in the program.

 Judges Panel for the 2021 Chicagoland Regionals were:

Chicagoland area Poetry Out Loud Coordinator: Timothy Rey, poet, educator
 Recitation Judges:
    • Davon Clark, poet, teaching artist
    • Marty McConnell poet, educator
    • Joy Young, poet, teaching artist
 Scorekeeper: Dan Rey, Microsoft trainer
Accuracy Judge: Kelsey Wright, poet, teaching artist
Poetry Out Loud in Illinois is a collaborative project of the Illinois Arts Council Agency and seven arts agencies, each of which hosts a regional contest. The Chicago Poetry Center is grateful for the support of the Illinois Arts Council Agency and for the opportunity to partner as regional hosts for Chicagoland.


The Poetry Out Loud:  National Recitation Contest is a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through analysis, memorization, performance, and competition.  The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in conjunction with state arts agencies, support this nation-wide program with participants from all fifty states plus Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico.


Big congrats to student poet and Illinois Poetry Out Loud winner, Catherine Herrera! Many thanks to the CPC poets and community that supported this effort. The Chicago Poetry Center thanks the Illinois Arts Council Agency for its partnership and support of this project.



“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.