Photograph of Hsu and Weidner (William Richards, photographer; Award designed by Jensine Stickley)




“Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?

   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too.”

These lines from “To Autumn” by John Keats were among those recited by Charles Hsu (Deerfield High School), the 2020 Illinois State champion in the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest.  The competition was held on Monday, March 2, 2020, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield.

To win the competition, Hsu also recited “Learning to love America” by Shirley Geok-Lin Lim and “I Am Offering this Poem” by Jimmy Santiago Baca.  Hsu will advance to the national competition in Washington, D.C., in late April.

Elizabeth Weidner from Teutopolis High School was declared the runner-up.  Rounding out the top five were Scottlynn Ballard (Edwardsville High School), Jada Cox (Jefferson High School, Rockford), and Sylvia Hughes (Eureka High School).

The Illinois State Contest featured recitations by two students from each of eight Poetry Out Loud regional contests in the state:  Belleville, Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago-City, Chicago-Metro, Rockford, Rock Island, and Springfield.

 Photo: The Contestants

Other students participating from around the state:

Nada Abdulaziz, Jefferson High School (Rockford)

Nereyda Anguiano, Rolling Meadows High School

Regan Cook, Bureau Valley High School (Manlius)

Erin Englebright, Agape Christian High School (Marion)

Paige Graves, Agape Christian High School (Marion)

Catherine Herrera, Taft High School (Chicago)

Grace Lambert, Sacred-Heart Griffin High School (Springfield)

Arian Mizan, University of Illinois Laboratory High School (Urbana)

Adam Stein, Freeburg High School

Alishiana Uyao, Mather High School (Chicago)

Taylor Walton, Orion High School

  Photo: Judges (left to right) : Anderson, Betts, Duchrow, Mathis, Chesley, Degler-Whitmer 

Contest staff for the 2020 Illinois State Contest included 

Recitation Judges:

Tara Betts, Chicago – poet and teacher

Stephen Duchrow, Elgin – performer and arts administrator

Karen Hunter Anderson, Rochester – educational administrator and writer

Rapheal Mathis, Chicago – poet and performer

Accuracy Judge:  Théa Chesley, Springfield – poet and librarian

Prompter:  Julia Degler-Whitmore, Mattoon – singer and arts administrator

Scorekeeper:  Bob Jessup, Springfield

M.C.:  Jim Leach, Springfield

Special guest at the contest was Susan Dickson, program director at the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

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 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, and Puerto Rico.

In Illinois this year, 42 high schools were part of Poetry Out Loud.  210 teachers.  More than 10,000 students.

“Among the benefits of the Poetry Out Loud program is that it helps young women and men find something they’re good at.  These students are so brave and talented and insightful,” said Sheila Walk, contest organizer, during the post-contest reception, “and they are competitive yet supportive of one another.”

More information is available at or from the Springfield Area Arts Council.

Photo: Hsu and Dickson

Photo: Weidner and Dickson