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Maryland State Arts Council Announces "Poetry Out Loud" Maryland State Winner from Concordia Preparatory High School, Baltimore County

Maryland State Arts Council Announces "Poetry Out Loud" Maryland State Winner from Concordia Preparatory High School, Baltimore County

March 10, 2020Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (March 10, 2020) -  Randolph Smith, an 11th grader at Concordia Preparatory High School in Baltimore County, was selected as the Poetry Out Loud (POL) Maryland State champion on March 7th during state finals at Baltimore Center Stage.  He was among nine finalists that were selected from more than 24 Maryland students in nine counties that competed in the statewide competition. The POL poetry recitation contest is co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and The Poetry Foundation, and administered by U.S. state arts agencies and regional arts organizations across the country. The Maryland POL competition is produced by the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC).

During the competition, Randolph Smith recited “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes, “Prints”by Joseph Bruchac, and “Is My Team Ploughing” by A.E. Housman. 

Second place was awarded to Maylis Quesnel, a 12th grader at Richard Montgomery High School, Montgomery County, and third place went to Katie Spencer, a 10th grader at Indian Creek School,Anne Arundel County. The six remaining finalists were Joy Campbell (Frederick County), Allison (Faith) Comising (Howard County), Caroline Daley (St. Mary’s County), Ellie Heath (Anne Arundel County), Kate Maerten (Carroll County), and Sanjana Subramanian (Frederick County).

The Maryland State Poetry Ourselves winner was also announced during the competition. The winner is Joy Campbell, an 11th grader at Oakdale High School in Frederick County. Poetry Ourselves is an additional optional competition that allows students to submit an original piece of poetry.

Participation in POL offers students the opportunity to learn about their literary heritage, build self-confidence, and improve their public speaking skills. The process begins in the fall when participating students select three eligible poems from the POL website, analyze and memorize them, and present the poems at their school competitions. In January and February, each school winner moves on to regionals and, in March, at the State Finals competition, the participants are evaluated on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, and overall performance.

“I’ve enjoyed seeing the growth of the regional finalists as they prepare for the state competition," said MSAC Executive Director Ken Skrzesz. "The students approach their recitations thoughtfully and with excellent analysis guided by extraordinary teachers.”

The Maryland State champion receives $1,200 in combined NEA and MSAC prize funds and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Finals on April 27-29, 2020. The Maryland winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up will receive $850 in combined NEA and MSAC prize funds, with $200 for his/her school library. At the National Finals, POL awards a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends with $20,000 awarded to the POL National Champion.

The 2020 POL Maryland State Finals judges: 

Abdul Ali is a poet, literary activist, and educator. He is the winner of the 2014 New Issues Poetry Book Prize for his debut collection, Trouble Sleeping. Ali's poems have appeared in numerous journals including Poetry Foundation website, Poetry Society of America's Poem-a-Day, Plume, and Poet Lore, to name a few. Ali was recently awarded a Ruby Award from the Deutch Roberts Foundation and works as a grants manager for a humanities initiative at the Community College of Baltimore County.

Slam Poet Gayle Danley is the 1994 National Poetry Slam champion and the 1996 International Poetry Slam champion. For over 25 years, she's taught students across the state of Maryland how to conceive, write and perform poetry from the soul. CBS 60 Minutes profiled her work with middle schoolers in Baltimore County, and last year she was designated the Maryland Library Association's Poet of the Year.

Unique Robinson is a writer/MC, performer, professor, educator, host, and proud Baltimore native. She received her Master of Fine Arts in English & Poetry from Mills College in 2014, and her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing & Black Studies from Hampshire College in 2009. Upon returning home, she became a Poetry Teaching Artist & Program Director/Operations Manager for DewMore Baltimore, and was the recipient of the 2017 Emerging Teaching Artist award from Arts Every Day. 

Jeff Smallwood has been the featured poet at the Crofton Library Poetry Series hosted by Susan Sonde, and has been a regular contributor to the Poet's Circle workshop in Prince Frederick since 2016. In 2018, his poetry and artwork was featured in a display at the Twin Beaches library. Jeff works professionally as a software engineer at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station and lives in Prince Frederick, MD.


About Maryland State Arts Council

Founded in 1967, MSAC is an agency of the State of Maryland Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts, that plays an essential role, ensuring every person has access to the transformative power of the arts. MSAC advances the arts in our state by providing leadership that champions creative expression, diverse programming, equitable access, lifelong learning, and the arts as a celebrated contributor to the quality of life for all the people of Maryland. To do this, the agency awards grants to not-for-profit, tax-exempt organizations for ongoing arts programming and projects, awards grants to individual artists, and provides technical and advisory assistance to individuals and groups. MSAC receives its funds in an annual appropriation from the State of Maryland and from grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. The Council may also receive contributions from private, non-governmental sources. For more information, go to

About Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation

Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation develops partnerships and programs that reinforce artists’ capacity to create and present work, advance access to and participation in the arts, and promote more sustainable arts ecology.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more.

About The Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine and one of the largest literary organizations in the world, exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit

Media Contact: 

Amelia Evans, Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC)
(o) 410-767-6542