91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Reciting Poetry Earns South Dakota Teenager A National Prize

Rahele Megosha of South Dakota, the 2021 Poetry Out Loud national champion.
Courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts
Rahele Megosha of South Dakota, the 2021 Poetry Out Loud national champion.

Rahele Megosha, a high school senior from South Dakota, has been named the 2021 Poetry Out Loud national champion. The competition invites high school students to memorize and recite great poetry, both classic and modern. For her win, Megosha recited three poems: "I Am Learning to Abandon the World" by Linda Pastan, "Fairy Tale with Laryngitis and Resignation Letter" by Jehanne Dubrow and Mary Lamb's poem "Breakfast."

Her prize comes with a $20,000 award. This fall, Megosha is beginning college at Columbia University in New York City, where she has a full-ride scholarship. She plans to major in biochemistry, with a concentration in either African-American and African diaspora studies or human rights.

In a Poetry Out Loud video posted by the National Endowment for the Arts earlier this month, Megosha said that the experience "has really made me understand beauty and its complexity — but also beauty in the simple and mundane ... Being able to get to know these different poets and their different poems, it really helps me understand the multitude of perspectives that exist in this world, and I think that's a really beautiful thing."

According to a feature in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader published last month, Megosha is involved in numerous extracurriculars, including "poetry club, Black Student Union, Warrior youth program, student council, principal's advisory, volunteering, speech, debate and oral interpretation" at Washington High School in Sioux Falls. She's also served as the captain of the speech team for the past two years.

Thousands of students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa participated in this year's competition, which was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event is organized by the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation, along with state and jurisdictional arts agencies.

The second-place winner is Kendall Grimes, a junior at Battle Ground Academy in Tennessee, who received a $10,000 prize. Third place went to Soojin Park, a senior at Auburn High School in Alabama, who won a $5,000 prize. Six other finalists are receiving a $1,000 prize; the schools that each of the top nine finalists attend will receive $500 to purchase poetry materials.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.