In the Spotlight

2014 National Finals

We are shaking off winter and welcoming the beginning of spring and the ending of National Poetry month with the 9th year of 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 365,000 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.

Neda Ulaby of National Public Radio will host the Wednesday evening finals. Guest judges for the National Finals are actor Christopher Sarandon, poets Valerie Martinez and Ming Di, author Tope Folarin, and Lee Bricetti, executive director of Poets House.

The 53 champions will gather at the Poetry Out Loud semifinals on Tuesday, 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 Wednesday, 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 2014 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 Party. Register 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, #POL2014. For more information on the event, webcast, or viewing parties, visit or call 202-682-5606.

Making Sense of Poetry

Are you a teacher looking for more ideas to help your students delve into poetry? Or a student who would like to know more about the poem you've chosen to recite? The Poetry Foundation's Learning Lab is here to help you reach a deeper understanding of poetry. Below are the Poetry Out Loud poems in the Learning Lab's archives that have guides accompanying them. Also, many of these are notated and come with discussion and writing ideas as well. Dive right in!

Anne Bradstreet's "To My Dear and Loving Husband"

Anne Bradstreet became a cultural icon for speaking out. Anne Hutchinson was banished.


Gwendolyn Brooks' "kitchenette building"

The Chicago poet transports readers into a dream deferred.



Emily Dickinson's "It was not Death, for I stood up"

Music and adolescent angst in the (18)80s.


John Donne's "The Sun Rising"

The poet tries to start a revolution from his bed.


Robert Duncan's "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow"

On Robert Duncan’s incantatory summons.


George Herbert's "Love (III)"

A 17th-century poet’s project invites its readers to the table


Gerard Manley Hopkins' "The Windhover"

A rapturous re-reading of the poet's love poem to life.


John Keats' "La Belle Dame sans Merci"

Beyond self-expression.


John Keats' "To Autumn"

In Keats’s finest season, even the gnats are mourning.


Philip Larkin's "An Arundel Tomb"

Does a notoriously grumpy poet believe in everlasting love?


Mina Loy's "Lunar Baedeker"

The poet navigates the unknown world.


Percy Bysshe Shelly's "Ozymandias"

A poem to outlast empires.


Stevie Smith "Not Waving, But Drowning"

This poem finds its author not raving but frowning.