Malisha Taylor Named Mississippi Poetry Out Loud Champion 

The Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) is pleased to announce that Malisha Taylor, a Sophomore at Pascagoula High School, is the 2024 Mississippi Poetry Out Loud® (POL) champion. Tommy Nichol, a Junior at Oxford High School, is the first runner-up, and Sanika Janorkar, a Freshman at Rosa Scott High School, is the second runner-up.

Malisha Taylor will receive $200, and Pascagoula High School will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. As the first runner-up, Tommy Nichol will receive $100, with $200 for Oxford High School.

“I am surprised but happy and grateful that my hard work actually led to something, “said Taylor after being announced the Mississippi Poetry Out Loud State Champion. Cold sweats went down my body. I didn’t expect it, but I’m happy.”

 Taylor recited “Mansplaining” by Jennifer Militello in the first round, “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” by Emily Dickinson in the second round, and her winning recitation was “Burning in the Rain” by Richard Blanco.

 Presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation, 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. Eight high school students from high schools/organizations across the state participated in the Poetry Out Loud state finals, which took place at Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson, MS, on March 7, 2024. Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) will record the competition and air it on MPB Television at 7:30 p.m. (CST) on Friday, April 26, 2024, and at 4:30 p.m. (CST) on Sunday, April 28, 2024.

“Our friends at MPB jumped on board with our desire to highlight the journey of the students who compete at the state finals. We are thrilled to have made some creative changes to the televised portion, in which you will hear directly from the students about their journey through the Poetry Out Loud program.”

Taylor will advance to the national finals, which are planned to take place in Washington, DC, April 30–May 2, 2024, where $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be distributed. More information will be announced in the future.

 “I don’t travel much. I’ve only traveled outside of Mississippi twice,” said Taylor. This will be her first time traveling to D.C., and she is excited to represent the state of Mississippi on the national stage.

The Mississippi Poetry Out Loud finals were hosted by Lewis and emceed by Mississippi Artist Roster member and spoken-word poet Steven Issac Randale. 5th Child was the musician for the competition, and Dr. Ebony Lumumba was the guest speaker. 

The guest judges included:

  • C. Liegh McInnis, poet, short story writer, and author
  • Stacey Nycole Vincent Howell, theatre educator and former MSPOL Regional Mentor
  • Diane Williams, author, performing artist, storyteller, teaching artist, speaker, consultant, and mixed-media fiber artist.
  • Danielle Littlefield, MFA, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Jackson State University.
  • Jason Thompson, Principal at Mississippi-based marketing and communications firm Fahrenheit Creative Group, LLC. 

 “Through Poetry Out Loud, students discover great poetry while also learning about themselves, world history, contemporary life, and the power of words. Through their participation in the program, they have the opportunity to build important public speaking skills, increase self-confidence, and build appreciation for different world views and styles of expression,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PHD. “We are grateful for the work of the Mississippi Arts Commission in making this opportunity available to students throughout Mississippi.”

For more information about Poetry Out Loud, visit