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Maryland Names Poetry Out Loud State Champion

Maryland Names Poetry Out Loud State Champion


Akash Menon of Frederick will advance to National Final

March 17, 2014Press Release

The Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) today announced that Akash Menon, a junior at Urbana High School in Frederick County, placed first at the 2014 Maryland Poetry Out Loud (POL) state final competition on Saturday, March 15 in Baltimore.

Radio personality Aaron Henkin of WYPR hosted the event, which featured three scored rounds of poetry recitation from the nine Maryland students who advanced through classroom, school, county and regional contests among more than 16,000 competitors to arrive at Saturday’s state final.

“It is amazing to see how these students were able to master the delivery of profound and often challenging poetry and captivate the audience with confidence and poise,” said MSAC Chair, Barbara Bershon. “We thank and congratulate all the students who participated in this rich celebration of the written word.”

Akash Menon (pictured right with Blessed Sheriff (center) and Aquilah Nelson) recited “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown,” by Walt Whitman, “The Fair Stranger,” by Andrew Marvell. Hushed laughter came from the audience during Menon’s final poem, “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July,” by the often humorous former U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins.

Said Menon, “It’s one thing to imagine how you want  a poem to be and another to realize that and bring it to a point where you’re getting the message across and letting the poem flow through you by embodying what the poet wanted.”

As champion, Menon receives $200 and a trip to Washington, D.C. to represent Maryland in the POL national competition, April 29-30 at the GW Lisner Auditorium. His school, Urbana High, will receive a $500 stipend toward the purchase of poetry books.

Blessed Sheriff of Richard Montgomery High School (Montgomery County), the Maryland POL champion last year who finished second at the National POL Final, placed second at this year’s state final. Aquilah Nelson of Bowie High School (Prince George’s County) placed third.

More than 16,000 Maryland students in 16 counties and 60 schools participated in POL this year. A panel of judges scored students’ performances in categories such as level of difficulty, dramatic appropriateness, voice and articulation and overall performance. Among the judges was Maryland Poet Laureate Stanley Plumly, author of more than 10 books of poetry and founder the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The Maryland POL program, which encourages high school students to learn poetry through memorization and recitation, is supported by the MSAC in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation. The statewide competition is open to all Maryland high schools, grades 9-12.

YouTube videos from the POL Maryland Final are posted online. To learn more about Poetry Out Loud visit the website at For information about the Maryland competition visit, or contact Program Director, Chris Stewart at

2014 POL Finalists
2014 Poetry Out Loud Maryland State Finalists, from left to right: Kaitlyn Wilson (Colonel Richardson High School, Caroline County); Jane Lyons (Huntingtown High School, Calvert County); Sharese Acheampong (New Town High School, Baltimore County); Myleah Lofland (Wicomico High School, Wicomico County); Sarah Townsend (James M. Bennett High School, Wicomico County); Veronica Clements (Middletown High School, Frederick County); Aquilah Nelson (Bowie High School, Prince George's County); Blessed Sheriff (Richard Montgomery High School, Montgomery County); Akash Menon (Urbana High School, Frederick County).

About the Maryland State Arts Council
The mission of the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), an agency of the Maryland Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts, is to encourage and invest in the advancement of the arts for the people of Maryland. The latest economic impact report shows that MSAC grantees’ activities support more than 12,700 full-time equivalent jobs and generate $1.02 billion in economic activity and $47.9 million in state and local taxes. For more information about the Maryland State Arts Council call (410) 767-6555 or TTY 1-800-735-2258, or visit the MSAC web site at