Omaha Student To Compete In National Poetry Competition

May 18, 2021, 2 p.m. ·

Alex Zalesky performing
This is Alex's second year competing in Poetry Out Loud. She hopes to continue performing in the future. (Photo courtesy of James Kegley from Poetry Out Loud national semifinals video submission)

An Omaha high school student is one of nine students competing in the Poetry Out Loud National Finals. Skutt Catholic High School junior Alex Zaleski will compete for the title of National Champion and a $20,000 prize next week.

Students selected their poems from a collection of more than a thousand poems. Depending on how far Zaleski makes it in the final competition, she will be reciting 1-3 poems, including, In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr. by June Jordan, On An Unsociable Family by Elizabeth Hands, and We Lived Happily During the War by Ilya Kaminsky.

Zaleski said those poems spoke to her when deciding which ones to recite. She says she is excited to be moving on in the competition and is enjoying the experience. 

"I'm really just excited to see other kids do some really awesome poetry. It's out of my hands, there is really nothing I can do now but sit back and enjoy and hope for the best.”

The finals typically held in Washington D.C. will be held virtually, with each finalist submitting video recordings of their recitations in advance. Judges will review and score the recitations based on several criteria including articulation, accuracy and overall performance.

The 2021 Poetry Out Loud national finals will be broadcast next Thursday, May 27th at 6 pm Central Time at The webcast will feature recitations by the top nine finalists and the live announcement of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion. For more information visit The National Endowment for the Arts.