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Soojin Park of Auburn to compete for $20,000 prize in Poetry Out Loud National Championship

MONTGOMERY, Ala., (May 25, 2021) — Each year, high school students nationwide experience Poetry Out Loud, memorizing and reciting classic and contemporary poetry and participating in local, regional, and state competitions. Out of 55 state and jurisdictional champions who competed in the national semifinals, nine high school students are advancing to the Poetry Out Loud national finals, including Soojin Park, Alabama’s state champion.

On Thursday, May 27 at 6:00 p.m. CT, actor and writer Shaun Taylor-Corbett will host the 2021 Poetry Out Loud national finals webcast at The evening will feature pre-recorded recitations, live interviews with the top nine finalists, and the live announcement of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion (who will receive a grand prize of $20,000).

In February, Soojin Park was awarded first place in Alabama’s Poetry Out Loud competition for her performance of “Say Grace” by Emily Jungmin Yoon. Park is a senior at Auburn High School (teacher Davis Thompson).

An accomplished writer, actor, and scholar, Park has participated in the Poetry Out Loud program for several years now. Traditionally, the competitions are live and in-person, but the pandemic necessitated going virtual this year. However, Park feels that her process for preparing, exploring, dissecting poems was surprisingly similar to previous years, stating, “Things like art are important in global pandemics. The heart behind the arts always stays the same.”

Every year, thousands of high school educators integrate Poetry Out Loud into their curriculum. The program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. The Council on the Arts and the Alabama Arts Alliance partner to produce Alabama’s Poetry Out Loud program. Both organizations believe strongly in the importance of student creativity.

“I am moved and inspired each year by the students who participate in Poetry Out Loud,” said Donna Russell, Executive Director of the Alabama Arts Alliance. “The talent and passion they exhibit in reciting poetry written by famous poets and by expressing their thoughts in their original poetry never ceases to amaze me.”

Park recently placed second in the national Poetry Ourselves written competition for the original poem “This is a poem about failure.” An extension of the Poetry Out Loud program, Poetry Ourselves awards students for excellence in writing their own poetry. Notably, Alabama includes an original poetry competition within its state poetry finals. The competition, sponsored by the Alabama Writers’ Forum (AWF),  focuses on craft and creativity. Park was selected as the 2021 original poetry winner with her poem “ireum.”

“Many students aren’t exposed to the idea of writing poetry, so when given an opportunity to write, they often discover something new and fun, even cathartic. Poetry Out Loud is a good avenue for discovering a love for poetry,” said Park.

“The Alabama Writers’ Forum proudly supports Alabama’s original poetry competition. We elevate the work of young writers through our High School Literary Arts Awards annually, and the original poetry competition is a very public way to showcase our state’s budding literary talent on a national stage,” added AWF Executive Director Jeanie Thompson.

“This year, the students in our Poetry Out Loud program produced some of the best original poetry to date, most responding to the challenges of this unique time in their lives,” said Diana Green, Arts in Education Program Manager for the Council on the Arts. “We are so proud to have Soojin represent Alabama’s young writers and poets at nationals.”

Watch the 2021 Poetry Out Loud national finals on May 27, beginning at 6:00 p.m. CT at

For additional information about Alabama’s Poetry Out Loud program, please contact Diana Green, Arts in Education Program Manager, Alabama State Council on the Arts at; or Donna Russell, Executive Director, Alabama Arts Alliance at


About Poetry Out Loud
A partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and the state arts agencies, Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. For more information about Poetry Out Loud and how to participate in the 2021-2022 program, visit

About Alabama Arts Alliance
The primary mission of the Alabama Arts Alliance is to increase public awareness of and engagement in the arts. Support for the arts in the schools is at the heart of the programming so that children in grades K-12 have equal opportunities to discover and develop their talents through sequential and comprehensive arts education programs. Established in 1983, the Alabama Arts Alliance is a partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, is a member of Americans for the Arts State Arts Action Network, and a partner with the Alabama State Department of Education. For more information, visit

About Alabama Writers’ Forum
The Alabama Writers’ Forum is a statewide partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts. Its mission is to enhance the quality of life and economic vitality for all Alabamians by championing the state’s rich literary arts resources, educating and encouraging its young writers, and promoting its established writers — all in a spirit of diversity, equity, and inclusion. For more information, visit

About Alabama State Council on the Arts
The Council on the Arts is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts in Alabama. The Council works to expand and preserve the state’s cultural resources by supporting nonprofit arts organizations, schools, colleges, units of local government, and individual artists. Arts programs, assisted by Council grants, have a track record of enhancing community development, education, cultural tourism, and overall quality of life in all regions of the state. Alabama State Council on the Arts receives an annual appropriation from the Alabama Legislature and additional funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. For more information, visit

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