In the Spotlight

Langston Ward is the 2013 POL National Champion!

From a competitive field of some 375,000 students nationwide, Langston Ward, a senior at Mead High School in Spokane, Washington, won the title of 2013 Poetry Out Loud National Champion at the National Finals held in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. With this achievement, Ward received a $20,000 award and his high school, Mead High School, received a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. 

A two-time Washington State Champion, Ward was also one of nine finalists competing for the national title last year. Ward’s final recitation yesterday evening was “The Bad Old Days,” a poem by Kenneth Rexroth. Ward also recited Walt Whitman’s “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” and Li-Young Lee’s “The Gift” at the Tuesday evening finals. When asked about his future relationship with poetry, Ward said, “I’ll keep these poems with me forever, that much I know.”

The second-place winner in the 2013 Poetry Out Loud national competition was Blessed Sheriff of Rockville, Maryland, who received a $10,000 award. Denise L. Burns of Lawton, Oklahoma, received the third-place prize and a $5,000 award.

Read more about the 2013 Poetry Out Loud National Finals here

2013 National Finals!

Springtime! The earth is rustling itself out of hibernation with the sounds of 53 high school students practicing poetry. It must nearly be time for the Poetry Out Loud National Finals! 

Every year, 53 State Poetry Out Loud Champions descend on Washington, DC to vie for the title of National Champion. These young competitors advanced from a field of some 375,000 students who tested their skills in poetry recitation in more than 2,000 schools nationwide. The top finalists and their schools will receive $50,000 in awards.

Anna Deavere Smith, the award-winning playwright, actress, and MacArthur Fellowship Award recipient, will host the Tuesday evening finals. Guest judges for the National Finals are poets Patricia Smith and Eduardo Corral, BBC correspondent Jane O'Brien, and Tree Swenson, executive director of the Richard Hugo House in Seattle.

The 53 champions will gather at the Poetry Out Loud semifinals on Monday, April 29, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at The George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st Street NW, Washington, DC. Nine finalists will advance to the National Finals, also held at Lisner Auditorium, on Tuesday, April 30, from 7:00 to 9:15 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. For more details on the semifinals and finals schedules, go to this page

To download a pdf of the 2013 Program, click here

The semifinals and finals can be viewed remotely through a live, one-time only webcast. Viewing parties will be arranged throughout the country; gather fellow poetry fans and host your own Poetry Out Loud Webcast Viewing PartyRegister and find promotional materials, tips on hosting, and details on other viewing parties around the country.

Follow Poetry Out Loud on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POL13. For more information on the event, webcast, or viewing parties, visit or call 202-682-5606.