Illinois Arts Council Agency Announces Poetry Out Loud State Champion

From a competitive field of nearly 7,000 students from across the state, Monica Labelle, a senior from Wheaton-Warrenville High School in Wheaton, received the title of 2014 Poetry Out Loud Illinois State Champion at the statewide competition hosted by the Springfield Area Arts Council in Springfield, on Friday, March 14, 2014. Ms. Labelle recited “Ovation” by Carol Muske-Dukes, “Echo” by Christina Rossetti, and “Over and Under” by John Brehm. Annabelle Emuze, a junior from Southeast High School, Springfield, won first runner-up with recitations of “Rondeau” by Leigh Hunt, “The Golden Shovel” by Terrance Hayes, and Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Blackstone Rangers”.  Ms. Labelle will advance to the national competition to be held in Washington, D.C., in mid-April. If Ms. Labelle is unable to attend, Ms. Emuze will represent Illinois at the national contest.

The Illinois State Champion Monica Labelle received an award of $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete for the national championship. Ms. Labelle’s school received a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. First runner-up Annabelle Emuze received $100, with $200 for her school library.

The Illinois State Contest featured recitations by two students from each of eight Poetry Out Loud regional contests in the state:  Alton, Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago-City, Chicago-Suburbs, Rockford, Rock Island, and Springfield. 

Other students participating from around the state included:
Grace Anderson, University of Chicago Lab School, Chicago; Marley DeVoss, Orion High School, Orion; Kristin Doty, Agape Christian School, Marion; Shelby Hoffman, Orion High School, Orion; Cedric Jones, Jr., Central High School, Champaign; Annie Kefalas, St. Teresa High School, Decatur; Jonlyn Miller, Central High School, Champaign; Whylder Moore, Jefferson High School, Rockford; Daisy Ochoa, Taft High School, Chicago; Ally Payne, Clay City High School, Clay City; Taylor Robinson, Edwardsville High School, Edwardsville; Asia Ward, Auburn High School, Rockford; Abbie Warhus, Evanston Township High School, Evanston; and Elixxa Warner, Alton High School, Alton

Contest staff for the 2014 Illinois State Contest included:
Recitation Judges: Duriel Harris, poet, writer and educator, Normal; Oba William King, storyteller, Chicago; Vernon Miller, publisher, Lisle, and Jenny Mueller, poet, writer, and educator, Lebanon; Accuracy judge: Neil Christensen; Prompter: Mark McKnight; Scorekeeper: Théa Chesley; and Master of Ceremonies: Jim Leach. Judges evaluated student performances on criteria including voice and articulation, physical presence, evidence of understanding, dramatic appropriateness, level of difficulty, and accuracy.

Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to a school-wide competition, (in Illinois) to a regional competition, then the state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, D.C. At the state finals in Springfield, Poetry Out Loud contestants recited works they selected from an anthology of more than 900 classic and contemporary poems. Now in its eighth year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud has inspired hundreds of thousands of high school students to discover classic and contemporary poetry. The Poetry Out Loud anthology, a website, a teacher’s guide, and media samples of poetry recitation were created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation as free educational resources for high school students and teachers.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, in conjunction with state arts agencies, support this nation-wide program with participants from all fifty states plus Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. For an in-depth look at the national Poetry Out Loud program, visit

Illinois Poetry Out Loud winner and runner-up for 2014

Annabelle Emuze, Southeast High School (Springfield) – runner-up
Right:  Monica Labelle, Wheaton Warrenville South High School (Wheaton) – champion
Photographer:  Matthew Larison

For information regarding Illinois’ regional and school Poetry Out Loud competitions in your local area, contact the Illinois Arts Council Agency’s partnering organization that services your geographic area.


Not-for-Profit Partner

Contact Person

Contact Information

Central Illinois

Springfield Area Arts Council

Sheila Walk



Literature for All of Us

Liz McCabe


Eastern Illinois

40 North/88 West

Amanda Baker


Northern Illinois

Rockford Area Arts Council

Sharon Nesbit-Davis


South Central Illinois

Jacoby Arts Center

Eric Stauffer


Southern Illinois

Carbondale Community Arts

Nancy Stemper


Western Illinois

Quad City Arts

Tracy Alan White



Contact Information