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2021 Mississippi Poetry Out Loud contest airs April 16 at 8 p.m. on MPB Television
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2021 POL contest
The 2021 Mississippi Poetry Out Loud semifinalists are (clockwise from top left): Allyson Evers, Sarah Rhodes, Sadie-Kate Segers, Tomia Jones, Brentaja Bardwell, Belle Grace Wilkinson, Emma Teng, Abigail Young and Morgan Love. 

JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi’s top student orators compete to master poetry recitation and performance during the state finals of the Poetry Out Loud contest airing Friday, April 16 at 8 p.m. on Mississippi Public Broadcasting Television and streaming online at

An encore broadcast of the competition is set for Sunday, April 18 at 1 p.m. The Mississippi Arts Commission oversees the recitation competition in high schools statewide.

Normally, the state POL contest is held at MPB. This year, due to COVID-19, students competed virtually. MPB Television production crew, led by Producer Patrick Wiggins, traveled to Oxford and Pascagoula to record students’ entries as well as captured entries in Jackson at MPB. MAC Executive Director Sarah Story met with the nine semifinalists March 15 via Zoom to announce the top three winners.  

The 2021 POL winners are: Morgan Love, Mississippi School of the Arts, first place; Belle Grace Wilkinson, Jackson Prep, second place; and Emma Teng, Oxford High School, third place. Wilkinson received a $100 cash prize and $200 for JP’s school library to purchase poetry materials. Love, who won the contest last year, received a $200 cash prize and $500 for her school’s library. She will compete in the national competition in May for an opportunity to win up to $20,000 and more school library funds. 

“Winning two years in a row feels...surreal. I’m not used to winning competitions, so to be able to earn the title of state champion, not once, but twice is such a blessing,” Love said. “I love to write, and poetry is my favorite form of literature. To be able to recite these poems and give life to the words in them just brings me immense joy, and I can’t wait to represent Mississippi in the next rounds.” 

The nine semifinalists who appear in MPB’s Poetry Out Loud broadcast are: Brentaja Bardwell, Pascagoula High School in Pascagoula; Allyson Evers, Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood; Tomia Jones, Jefferson County High School in Fayette; Morgan Love, Mississippi School of the Arts in Brookhaven; Sarah Rhodes, Clinton High School in Clinton; Sadie-Kate Segers, Rebul Academy in Learned; Emma Teng, Oxford High School in Oxford; Belle Grace Wilkinson, Jackson Preparatory School in Flowood; and Abigail Young, Ocean Springs High School in Ocean Springs.

This year 947 students and 44 teachers from 19 high schools in Mississippi participated in Poetry Out Loud. Judges for the state finals were: C. Liegh McInnis of Jackson State University, Richelle Putnam, MAC teaching artist; Aimee Nezhukumatathil of the University of Mississippi; Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi and professor at Ole Miss; and Dr. Benjamin Morris, MAC roster artist. 

Poetry Out Loud was created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation for students in grades 9-12. Since 2005, it has helped students in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and the District of Columbia master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and improve reading comprehension.

Through the Poetry Out Loud curriculum, teachers guide students to a better understanding of the power of language and literature by helping them develop a personal relationship with great poems. Poetry Out Loud offers all students the opportunity to compete for awards, prizes and recognition.

MPB is a state agency that also operates as a PBS and NPR affiliate broadcasting station. For more information visit Find all MPB press releases here.



Mississippi Public Broadcasting provides relevant instructional and public affairs programming to Mississippians through its statewide television and radio network.  MPB enhances the work of educators, students, parents and learners of all ages by providing informative programming and educational resources.  MPB’s locally produced programming focuses on the people, resources and attractions that reflect Mississippi’s unique culture and diverse heritage. Children’s television programs constitute a major portion of the daytime and weekend morning schedules.  MPB provides a valuable resource to Mississippians in disseminating information as part of the state’s emergency preparedness and response system.  Since 1970, MPB has won over 350 national, regional and statewide awards, including Emmy®, Edward R. Murrow and Parents’ Choice® Awards.