Museum of New Mexico Media Center Press Release

Poetry Out Loud state champion will represent New Mexico in Washington, D.C.

New Mexico Arts

March 30, 2023


Santa Fe, NM — Rutendo Musharu, a senior at United World College-USA High School in Montezuma, was named the 2023 New Mexico Poetry Out Loud champion. Robin Blakeman, a sophomore at the Public Academy for the Performing Arts, Albuquerque, was also named as the 2023 runner up. In May, Musharu will represent New Mexico in the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest in Washington, D.C. 

Musharu won the state-level contest on March 5, outscoring six other contestants during her first appearance in Poetry Out Loud. She performed “How to Triumph Like a Girl” by Ada Limón, “This Is Not a Small Voice” by Sonia Sanchez, and “Breakfast” by Mary Lamb. 

“Ru’s performance was mesmerizing, especially of Sonia Sanchez’s poem ‘This Is Not a Small Voice,’ which she managed to deliver with great energy, anger, and tenderness all at once,” said Lauren Camp, New Mexico Poet Laureate. “Poetry Out Loud buoys students’ confidence, and the state finals are a joy to behold. I know their chosen poems will be there for them later on in their lives, at a point they can’t imagine now.”

Poetry Out Loud, presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is a national arts education program. It encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational services and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. This year, more than 500 high school students from seven high schools and organizations across the state of New Mexico participated in the program. The top seven students advanced to the New Mexico finals competition, which took place at St. Francis Auditorium in Santa Fe on March 5. 

Poetry Out Loud starts in the classroom/school or at the local level with an area organization. Winners advance to the state competition, and ultimately to the national finals. At the New Mexico finals, contestants recited works they memorized from an anthology of more than 1,200 classic and contemporary poems. The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation provide free, standards-based curriculum materials—all available online—which teachers may choose to use in their classrooms. Since the program began in 2005, more than 4.1 million students and 68,000 teachers from 17,000 schools across the country have participated in Poetry Out Loud. 

Rutendo Musharu will receive $200, and UWC-USA will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. As the first runner-up, Robin Blakeman will receive $100, with $200 stipend for Public Academy for the Performing Arts purchase of poetry materials. Other state finalists who participated included: Esther Heerema, Arrowhead Park Early College High School, Las Cruces; Livi Lent-Koop, V. Sue Cleveland High School, Rio Rancho; Michael Arrellin, Wagon Mound High School, Wagon Mound; Rawan Lilo Albuquerque School of Excellence, Albuquerque; Finley Altman, La Cueva High School, Albuquerque. 

This May, Rutendo Musharu will advance to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington, D.C. All 55 state and jurisdictional champions will compete in the national semifinals on Tuesday, May 9, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET, with the top nine students advancing to the finals on Wednesday, May 10, from 7:00 to 9:15 p.m. ET. Both days are free and open to the public and will be available through a one-time-only webcast at In total, $50,000 in awards and school/organization stipends, including a $20,000 award for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion, will be presented at the National Finals. The Poetry Foundation provides and administers all aspects of the monetary prizes awarded and travel arrangements to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more.

About the Poetry Foundation 
The Poetry Foundation recognizes the power of words to transform lives. The Foundation works to amplify poetry and celebrate poets by fostering spaces for all to create, experience, and share poetry. Follow the Poetry Foundation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and Poetry magazine at @PoetryMagazine.

About New Mexico Arts
New Mexico Arts is the state arts agency. Its mission is to preserve, enhance, and develop the arts in New Mexico through partnerships, public awareness, and education, and to enrich the quality of life for present and future generations.  The primary function of New Mexico Arts is to provide financial support and technical assistance or arts services and programs to non-profit organizations statewide and to administer the 1% public art program for the state of New Mexico. Other programs include the Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts, New Mexico Arts and Cultural Districts, New Mexico Arts Trails, and Poetry Out Loud.



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