Anaiya Asomugha wins regional Poetry Out Loud competition, advances to state contest


Asomugha poses in front of a Poetry Out Loud wall after winning the LA competition. The event was held Sat., Feb. 4, at Lineage Performing Arts Center, Pasadena. (Photo credit: Thomas Amiya, courtesy of LACOE)

By Meredith Ho, Senior Reporter

Junior Anaiya Asomugha steps onto the stage, facing a room of high school students from all across Los Angeles to compete at the Los Angeles Poetry Out Loud competition Sat., Feb. 4. After placing first in her schoolwide competition, Asomugha advanced to the regional Poetry Out Loud competition.

Asomugha recited “Self-Help by Michael Ryan to win the regional competition, earning the Los Angeles County Poetry Out Loud Champion title. Her next step is to compete in the California State Finals in Sacramento.

Asomugha began her competition process by choosing a poem from the competition website. She recited “a song in the front yard by Gwendolyn Brooks in her schoolwide and Los Angeles County Poetry Out Loud competitions. The students are judged by their physical presence, evidence of understanding, tone of voice and articulation.

Asomugha started writing and reciting poetry in fifth grade and got involved with Poetry Out Loud because she loves being on stage. She chose “Self-Help” by Michael Ryan because she said she felt personally connected to the poem.

“I have several people in my life that I was trying to help because the people that they were hanging out with weren’t really great people,” Asomugha said. “The emotions that Michael Ryan feels where he goes from anger to pity to sympathy really resonated with me.”

Archer’s Poetry Out Loud coordinator Kathleen Keelty said poetry is an important way for people to understand each other and themselves.

“There’s so much poetry that we never get a chance to look at because we’re just busy and we don’t take the time,” Keelty said. “I think the most important thing about choosing a poem for Poetry Out Loud is finding a poem that you can really make your own and that sounds like you in the way that you talk anyway so that you’re able to really make that work.”

The contestants submitted their Poetry Out Loud videos to the judges before presenting them on stage. The results were decided before the stage presentation. Asomugha said her performance was a celebration of how far everyone had come.

“I got up there, and I saw everyone else, and I was like, ‘I haven’t even got a chance,'” Asomugha said. “When they announced the winner, I was in shock because there were so many talented people there. So that was really nice, comforting and really great to hear.”

This is Archer’s third year competing in the Poetry Out Loud competition. Following in the footsteps of senior Mia Ronn, the 2022 Poetry Out Loud National Champion, Asomugha will complete in the California State Finals March 19-20. The winner will earn a spot in the National Poetry Out Loud finals in May. Asomugha will be reciting three poems at the state contest, two of which are the same poems she performed. The third poem is yet to be decided.

Ronn said it was no surprise that Asomugha is advancing to the state contest, and she is excited to see Asomugha progress through this competition. Ronn encouraged more students from Archer to participate in Poetry Out Loud next year. She said it’s a great challenge and opportunity to learn about yourself, especially for students who don’t consider themselves performers.

“I think a lot of people feel sort of limited by the sort of writing that we do in school. But I think with poetry, what’s so special is that there’s no right way. It’s sort of whatever you want it to be,” Ronn said. “I think it’s a really great means of catharsis, and it’s just really freeing — and anyone can do it.”