The 2022 Tennessee Poetry Out Loud (POL) champion is Kendall Grimes, a senior at Battle Ground Academy (BGA) in Franklin, TN. The competition was held on Saturday, March 5, at the Tennessee State Museum. Kendall Grimes is a senior who has been involved with Poetry Out Loud since her freshman year. Kendall is an outstanding student, athlete, and musician who will be headed to Yale in the fall.
“I am so lucky that Poetry Out Loud has been so prominent in my life these past four years.” said Kendall Grimes, “I have met so many amazing people, been given countless opportunities, and significantly grown as a person because of this process. I am so thankful for Ms. Handelsman, Ms. Waxman, and Mr. Zuñiga for helping me win the State Champion title this year, and for Ms. Handelsman for being my mentor all throughout high school. I look forward to wrapping up my involvement with POL with a successful run at Nationals!”
Leah Handelsman, BGA English Department Chair and Kendall’s coach reflects, “We at BGA are so proud of Kendall for having done what no one has done before: win the Poetry Out Loud three times in a row. While the pandemic prevented us from having a State competition in Kendall’s sophomore year, poetry has been a source of joy and light during some very difficult times. I have loved working with Kendall as her coach since her freshman year and am excited to see her try to win the National title this year!”
Saturday’s statewide competition featured 14 finalists from across Tennessee, but only the state champion will participate in the national semifinals that will stream on Sunday, May 1st, with the top nine students advancing to the national finals, which will stream on Sunday, June 5th. Kendall will receive awards from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Poetry Foundation.
“Poetry Out Loud is an incredible opportunity for all students to grow academically and learn something new about themselves and others from across the state,” said TN Arts Commission Chair Jan McNally. “We celebrate the efforts of each teacher and student who participated in POL this year.”
Carissa Thompson, a senior at Harding Academy of Memphis, and Madison Clanton, a junior at Cumberland County High School tied for first runner-up. Thompson and Clanton will receive awards and the schools will receive stipends for the purchase of poetry books and supplies. Charlotte Bollschweiler from Clayton-Bradley Academy in Maryville is the second runner-up and Briana Fowlkes from Mount Pleasant High School in Mount Pleasant is the third runner-up. They will also receive awards. Poetry Out Loud will award a total of $50,000 to students and schools at the National Finals, including a $20,000 award for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.
“Poetry Out Loud is an opportunity for Tennessee students to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage,” said Anne B. Pope, Executive Director, TN Arts Commission. “We wish Kendall the best of luck in the national competition.”
The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in partnership with the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Tennessee State Museum, presented POL 2022. The program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry, recitation, and performance, building on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form.