Get involved today! Contact your state arts agency.
Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies.
Since 2005, Poetry Out Loud has grown to reach more than 4 million students and 65,000 teachers from 16,000 schools in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. If you are interested in participating in the official program, please contact your state arts agency.
Contest Structures and Awards
Poetry Out Loud can be conducted virtually or in-person. The program starts at the classroom/school or at the local level with an area organization. Winners then may advance to a regional and/or state competition, and ultimately to the national finals. Awards and placements are determined solely by the judges’ scores based on the Poetry Out Loud Evaluation Criteria.
Non-school organizations, such as after school clubs, libraries, or non-profit organizations, may also choose to run Poetry Out Loud. Students may only compete in one stream—either with their school or an organization. Students unable to participate at their school or local organization should contact their state Poetry Out Loud coordinator to discuss other opportunities for inclusion in the state’s official competition.
Each winner at the state level receives $200 and competes in the national finals. The state winner’s school receives $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up in each state receives $100, with $200 for their school. At the national finals, a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends is awarded annually. Visit the FAQ and rules sections for more details.
Program Materials and Schedule
Poetry Out Loud provides free curriculum materials—all available online—including a poetry anthology, a comprehensive teacher’s guide, videos of student performances, lesson plans, and promotional and media resources. Hard copies of materials are available for teachers participating in the official program but anyone can access the online materials.
After schools or organizations register with their state arts agency, materials are sent on a rolling basis beginning in August, and the program is run through early winter. (Poetry Out Loud does not require full class periods and can be completed in 2-3 weeks.) States hold their competitions by mid-March. Following the state finals, the national finals will be held virtually in Spring 2021.
While teachers, students, and poetry lovers everywhere can use this website and its free materials to organize their own contests, the official contest is limited to the programs run by each state’s arts agency.
With the Poetry Out Loud app, you can easily find, save, and practice poems for the competition on your phone. Now available for download:
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America.
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It has embarked on an ambitious plan to bring the best poetry before the largest possible audiences.