The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) announced that Karma Hudnall, a junior at DeKalb School of the Arts in Avondale Estates, Georgia, took home first prize in the 2021 Poetry Out Loud state championship.

A senior at Etowah High School in Woodstock, Sophia Stewart, was runner-up in the competition.

“My experience winning the State finals was very amazing,” said Hudnall. “I didn’t notice how much I loved poetry until the competition widened my perspective. It helped me discover more poems that I now love and brought back my excitement for portraying the emotions as best as I can.”

Poetry Out Loud is a national program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, which encourages high school students to learn about poetry through memorization and recitation of the written word. Georgia’s Poetry Out Loud champion will receive $200 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

This year, regional contests were virtual. The final spring competition was conducted through livestreaming video by the nine students participating in the state finals.

The state champion will go on to represent Georgia at the national finals, which will also be held virtually through recorded video this year.

“Poetry Out Loud is an excellent opportunity for high school students to gain confidence not only in public speaking, but in expressing themselves clearly and confidently,” said Tina Lilly, executive director of Georgia Council for the Arts. “These skills will be invaluable for participants as they go through college or compete for jobs.”

Hudnall’s school will also be presented with a $500 certificate that will go toward new books. As Poetry Out Loud runner-up, Stewart will receive $100 from the NEA, and $200 for new books for her school.

Poetry Out Loud started in 2005 as a pilot program in Chicago and Washington, D.C., Poetry and has grown to involve millions of students from across the country.

This is the 13th year that the Atlanta History Center has been selected by Georgia Council for the Arts to coordinate the state’s Poetry Out Loud competition. Georgia’s 2021 participation included: 61 schools in 39 counties, 5,688 students, and 340 teachers.

“Georgia Poetry Out Loud has had a great year despite the pandemic and all of the challenges it presented,” said Emily Cobb, Poetry Out Loud state coordinator at Atlanta History Center. “This year, Georgia students have been able to continue their drive and love for poetry.”

Karma Hudnall is the winner of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud State Championship (Photo Credit: Courtesy/Georgia Department of Economic Development)

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