Poetry Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts Announce the 2011 National Finals of Poetry Out Loud

April 28 and 29 in Washington, DC

April 14, 2011

CHICAGO —To cap off National Poetry Month, champions from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands will showcase their skills in poetry memorization and recitation at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals. On April 28 and 29, 53 students—from a field of more than 365,000 participants—will take part in the finals of the nation’s largest youth poetry recitation competition. The top finalists and their schools will collect a total of $50,000. 

Award-winning actress Kerry Washington, a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, will host the Friday evening finals. The roster of judges for the National Finals includes poets Valerie Martínez, Thomas Sayers Ellis, and Brian Turner, actress and poet Amber Tamblyn, playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil, and the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Michael Kahn.

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership among the Poetry Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and state arts agencies that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. Poetry Out Loud gives students an opportunity to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

“To memorize a great poem is to make a friend of it for life,” said Poetry Foundation president John Barr. “From the stage, the participants in Poetry Out Loud recite their poems with a joy all their own. We, the audience, listen and are moved.”

Now in its sixth year as a national competition, Poetry Out Loud has been embraced by thousands of students, teachers, schools, and communities nationwide as an effective and original way to discover classic and contemporary poets, from Langston Hughes and Dorothy Parker to Joy Harjo and Yusef Komunyakaa. 

“Our research shows that young people who get arts education today are much more likely to be the arts participants of tomorrow,” said NEA chairman Rocco Landesman. “Through Poetry Out Loud, we’ve heard many stories from students who talk about falling in love with poetry . . . for life.”

The Poetry Out Loud semifinals take place on Thursday, April 28, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Nine students will compete in the National Finals on Friday, April 29, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.  Events will take place at the historic Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U Street NW, Washington, DC. All events are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. Both the semifinals and the finals can be viewed remotely through a one-time-only live webcast. Follow Poetry Out Loud on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POLnews. For more information on the event and webcast, visit www.arts.gov or call 202.682.5001.

Poetry Out Loud Partnerships
The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are the culmination of many partners' efforts. As national partners, the NEA and the Poetry Foundation have contributed support for administration of the program, educational materials, and 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 next year’s Poetry Out Loud should contact their state arts agency. More information is available at www.poetryoutloud.org.

Poetry Out Loud Educational Materials

The NEA and the Poetry Foundation provide free, standards-based curriculum materials for use by participating schools. These materials include print and online poetry anthologies containing more than 650 classic and contemporary poems, a teacher’s guide, video footage of performances from the National Finals, and audio tracks about the art of recitation. Schools are welcome to download these resources at www.poetryoutloud.org.

Contests and Awards
Using a pyramid structure, Poetry Out Loud starts with classroom and schoolwide activities and contests between September 2010 and February 2011. State contests were held by mid-March; the 53 champions of contests in every state, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC compete at the national finals. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will present a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends for the purchase of poetry books. Awards include $20,000 for the Poetry Out Loud national champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists. Each state-level final has awarded $1,000 in cash to the champion, runner-up, and their schools. In total, Poetry Out Loud will award more than $100,000 to state- and national-level winners.

Fast facts about Poetry Out Loud 2010–2011

  • Total participating students in the 20102011 school year: 365,855
  • Total participating schools in the 20102011 school year: 2,255
  • Total participating teachers in the 20102011 school year: 5,020
  • Total number of students nationwide who have competed in Poetry Out Loud over the past six years: 1.2 million
  • States with the highest number of participating students in 2011: California, Florida, and Washington
  • Participating State Schools for the Deaf or Deaf and Blind: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, and Oregon
  • Most frequently performed—and now retired—poem from the Poetry Out Loud anthology: “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou


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 literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit www.poetryfoundation.org.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
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 $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. 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 www.arts.gov. 

About Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation supports the richness and diversity of the region’s arts resources and promotes wider access to the art and artists of the region, nation, and world. To learn more about MAAF and its programs and services, visit www.midatlanticarts.org.

What People are Saying

"Poetry Out Loud helped me gain confidence in myself. I'm usually quite shy, but memorizing and performing poems and meeting new people along the way has given me confidence that I will always carry with me."
Raina Verser
2017 AL POL Champion