National Finals


Final Contest for the Title of National Poetry Out Loud Champion on May 4, 2016

High school students compete for $20,000 award


WHAT: Nine student finalists representing high schools from Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, Puerto Rico, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia match their skills in reciting classic and contemporary poetry in a contest for the title of National Poetry Out Loud Champion and a $20,000 award. Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation.  

WHEN/WHERE: Wednesday, May 4, 7:00 pm - 9:15 pm ET, Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University, 730 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC. Not in DC?  Poetry fans nationwide can take part in the event via a live, one-time-only webcast at

WHO: Speakers and participants are host, Elizabeth Acevedo, award-winning poet. Guest judges include Alice Quinn, executive director of the Poetry Society of America; authors Jacqueline Woodson and Virgil Suárez; playwright and poetry slam champion José Antonio Vadi; and actor Chris Sarandon. The featured performer is hip-hop artist and multi-instrumentalist Christylez Bacon.

2016 Poetry Out Loud National Finalists:

  • Georgia State Champion Marta Palombo, Cambridge High School, Alpharetta, GA
  • Hawaii State Champion Nicholas Amador, Punahou School, Honolulu, HI
  • Louisiana State Champion Kyla Rose Bates, Zachary High School, Baton Rouge, LA
  • Maryland State Champion Sharese Acheampong, New Town High School, Owings Mills, MD  
  • Montana State Champion Savannah Smith, Helena High School, Helena, MT
  • Puerto Rico State Champion Wenmimareba Klobah Collins, University High School, San Juan, PR
  • Texas State Champion Madison Heggins, Lewisville High School, Lewisville, TX
  • Virginia State Champion Ahkei Togun, Tallwood High School, Virginia Beach, VA
  • West Virginia State Champion Neely Seams, Greenbrier East High School, Lewisburg, WV

INTERVIEWS: Pre-event interviews with the nine national finalists are at 6:00 – 6:30 pm. Post-event photos and interviews with finalists, judges, and speakers take place onstage, 9:15 – 9:45 pm.

OTHER:  The Poetry Out Loud Semifinals and National Finals are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. Both events will offer ASL interpretation. For more information call 202-682-5606 or visit

WEBCAST: Watch the finals through a closed captioned, one-time-only webcast at

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Photos and video of #POL16 Semifinals and Finals will be available at this link.

FOLLOW: Poetry Out Loud is on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, #POL16. 

CONTACT: Media must RSVP to Sally Gifford, NEA Public Affairs, 202-682-5606 or Video crews covering the Wednesday night National Finals must arrive by 6:45 pm to reserve a space. No flash photography.

- See more at:



Registration & Prize Forms 

State Champion Prize form and Registration packet

Second Place Student Prize form

1st and 2nd Place School Prize forms


Poetry Out Loud Partnerships

The National Finals are the culmination of efforts by many partners. As national partners, the NEA and the Poetry Foundation have supported the administration of the program, created educational materials, and funded awards for both the state and national finals. State arts agencies have implemented the program in high schools nationwide and organized state competitions, often in collaboration with local arts organizations. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

Schools interested in registering for the 2015-2016 Poetry Out Loud contest should contact their state arts agency. More information is available at


Fast Facts About #POL15

  • Poetry Out Loud participation 2005-2015: 2.7 million students and 9,500 schools.
  • 2014-2015 participation stats: 365,000 students, 9,000 teachers, 2,300 high schools.
  • Top three most popular poems for 2014-15 season: “Abandoned Farmhouse” by Ted Kooser, “Across the Bay” by Donald Davie and “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost.
  • Number of repeat state champs at National Finals, 2005-2014: 42. Number of repeat schools at National Finals: 81, including five-timer Arvada/Clearmont High School (WY).
  • States with the highest number of participating students in 2015: New Jersey, California, Washington, Massachusetts, and Maryland.
  • Oldest and youngest poets represented in the 900+ poem anthology are Queen Elizabeth I (b. 1533) and Jamaal May (b. 1982).

About Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation

Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation develops partnerships and programs that reinforce artists’ capacity to create and present work, advance access to and participation in the arts, and promote a more sustainable arts ecology.

About the NEA

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $5 billion to strengthen the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at

About the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative partnerships, prizes, and programs. For more information, visit



Read the 2013 Champion Announcement (PDF)

Read the 2012 Champion Announcement (PDF)

Read the 2011 Champion Announcement (PDF)

Read the 2010 Champion Announcement (PDF)