Skip to content
Secondary Content

Ashlei Havili of American Fork High School Wins State Poetry Out Loud Finals – 13 Mar 2014

Nick Markham of Judge Memorial Catholic High School named runner-up

Ashlei Havili of American Fork High School took home top honors from the state finals for the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest, presented by Utah Arts & Museums on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at co-host Westminster College’s Vieve Gore Concert Hall in the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts. Havili will receive $200 and travel expenses to represent Utah in the national championship April 29 and 30 in Washington, D.C. Her school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. Runner-up Nick Markham of Judge Memorial Catholic High School will receive $100, with $200 for his school library. Poetry Out Loud will award a $20,000 college scholarship to the national champion.

Approximately 5,042 students from 43 high schools and 16 school districts across Utah participated in Poetry Out Loud activities and competed in school and regional competitions. Regional competitions were held in Gunnison, Provo, Roosevelt, St. George, South Jordan and Woods Cross. At the Vieve Gore Concert Hall, students recited works they selected from an anthology of nearly 600 classic and contemporary poems. Students competing included:

Ashlei Havili, American Fork High School, American Fork
Emily Woolsey, Beaver High School, Beaver
Rose Peckham, East Hollywood High School, West Valley City
Nick Markham, Judge Memorial Catholic High School, Salt Lake City
Mitchell Asper, North Sevier High School, Salina
Mason Duncan II, Union High School, Roosevelt

This was the second time participating in Poetry Out Loud for state champion Havili. She prepared by reading “a lot of poems; probably more than I’ll ever read again,” she said. “I chose ones where I could see myself in them — they really captured me.” Her advice to future competitors: “Never stop reading, and never stop believing that you can do something great.”

Judges were Ben Gunsberg, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and English Education at Utah State University; David Dynak, Director of the Center for the Arts and Education at Westminster College; Ashley Seitz Kramer, Assistant Dean of Arts and Sciences at Westminster College; and Larry Shumway, former Utah Superintendent of Public Instruction. The judges used a comprehensive scoring rubric provided by the competition sponsors, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Competitors were judged on their physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness of the performance, level of poem difficulty, evidence of poem understanding, and overall performance. In addition, accuracy judges scored the students on how precisely they recited the poems.

“These students are so amazing,” said Lynnette Hiskey, Utah Arts & Museums Director. “Their captivating performances of these literary masterworks are a thrill to watch. We’re very proud of them, and each one deserves our heartfelt congratulations.”

Utah has had five finalists in the national top ten. Last year, state champion Devin Jones of West Jordan High School received an honorable mention and $1,000 at the national finals. In 2012, senior MarKaye Hassan of Logan High School took third place in the national finals and received a $5,000 award. She was also invited to return to Washington, D.C., to recite at the National Book Festival. In 2008, Skyline High School senior Madison Niermeyer also placed third at the national competition and received a $5,000 scholarship award. Niermeyer was contacted by noted Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti to congratulate her on her recitation of his poem I Am Waiting.

The state finals were a festive event, with KUED-TV Director of Production Ken Verdoia serving as the emcee, and the band Color Animal providing music during the breaks. Winners were congratulated by Department of Heritage and Arts Executive Director Julie Fisher. The audience was treated to poetry recitations by Utah Poet Laureate Lance Larsen; poet Shanan Ballam; Utah County Poetry Out Loud Regional Coordinator Justin Kennington; and student Karlei Havili.

The 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Finals will be at the Lisner Auditorium, The George Washington University, April 30 (semifinals will take place on April 29). The semifinals and finals will be webcast live at

Poetry Out Loud, presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. Poetry Out Loud seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers across the nation by capitalizing on trends in poetry recitation and performance. The program builds on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form by inviting the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, the spoken word, and theatre into the English classroom. Through Poetry Out Loud, students master public-speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. For more details regarding Utah’s Poetry Out Loud activities, contact the POL Team via email or call 801.533.5760.