Springfield Area Arts Council

YOHANNA ENDASHAW smiling with her CHAMPION plague


I throw a book

when a poem undoes me. I underline

Clifton: today we are possible. I start

from image. I begin with Phillis Wheatley.

I begin with Phillis Wheatley. I begin

with Phillis Wheatley reaching for coal.

I start with a napkin, receipt, or my hand.

I muscle memory. I stutter the page. I fail.

Hit delete — scratch out one more line. I sonnet,

then break form. I make tea, use two bags.

Rooibos again.

YOHANNA ENDASHAW from NILES WEST HIGH SCHOOL in SKOKIE recited these words from Tiana Clark’s “My Therapist Wants to Know about My Relationship to Work” as part of the Poetry Out Loud Illinois State Contest.

Endashaw’s other recitations were “Siren Song” by Margaret Atwood and “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus.  She advances to May’s national competition in Washington, D.C.

In Illinois this year, 42 high schools were part of Poetry Out Loud.  175 teachers.  Almost 8,000 students!  Sixteen students representing Illinois’s eight regions competed at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in downtown Springfield on Monday, March 13, 2023.

THAD BERGSCHNEIDER from FRANKLIN HIGH SCHOOL in FRANKLIN placed second in the competition that featured recitations by winning students from each of eight state regions:  Central, Chicago-City, Chicago-Metro, Eastern, Northern, South-central, Southern, and Western.

Here are names, high schools, and hometowns of those regional winners:
Sidney Bester (finalist) – Homewood Flossmoor, Flossmoor

   Sara Carter – Thomas Jefferson, Rockford

   Eliza Denham – Eureka, Eureka

   Vanali Desai – Stephen T. Mather, Chicago

   Rebecca Drake – Massac County, Metropolis

   Leo Dunahee – Nashville Community, Nashville

   Brooklynn Haars – Orion, Orion

   Veda Kommineni – Edwardsville Community, Edwardsville

   Adeleah Reynoso (finalist) – Taft, Chicago

   Mikira Rogers –Thomas Jefferson, Rockford

   Kate Roth (finalist) – Champaign Central, Champaign

   Wade Schacht – Champaign Central, Champaign

   Alex Walker –Edwardsville Community, Edwardsville

   Eleanor Wilbur – Orion, Orion

State program manager was Susan Dickson of the Illinois Arts Council Agency.  The contest coordinator was Sheila Walk, executive director of the Springfield Area Arts Council.   Recitation judges were Mariah Brooks (Springfield), Ashley Mallick (Carbondale), Jacob Saenz (Chicago), and Ted Williams III (Chicago); accuracy judge was Théa Chesley (Springfield).

Poetry Out Loud in Illinois is a collaborative project of the Illinois Arts Council Agency and seven arts agencies who host regional contests.  As a national program, Poetry Out Loud:  National Recitation Contest 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, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico.

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

YOHANNA ENDASHAW smiling with her CHAMPION plagueTHAD BERGSCHNEIDER holding his RUNNER-UP plaque

Photographs of Endashaw and Bergschneider (taken by William Richards)