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Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Poetry Out Loud: National Poetry Recitation Contest?
Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program 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 uses a pyramid structure. Beginning at the classroom level, winners will advance to the school-wide competition, then to the state capital competition, and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, D.C. More than 200,000 students are expected to take part in Poetry Out Loud this year.


Where will Poetry Out Loud take place?
State Arts Agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enlisted high schools to participate in the official Poetry Out Loud program. For more information on South Carolina regional and state finals, contact the Poetry Out Loud Program Coordinator at the South Carolina Arts Commission.


Who created Poetry Out Loud?
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation created Poetry Out Loud. At the state level, each State Arts Agency (SAA) has received an NEA grant of $15,000 to assist with expenses of program coordination and the state final event.


Who can participate in the official Poetry Out Loud contest?
The official Poetry Out Loud contest is administered at the state level by State Arts Agencies in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. State Arts Agencies will define the scope of participation on a state-by-state basis. All types of high schools are welcome to participate, including public, private, parochial, independent, charter, etc.


  • Student Eligibility: Only high school students in grades 9-12 are eligible, with an exception made for 8th grade students who are in a participating 9th through 12th grade class. Competitors at the state and national finals must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Students are responsible for verifying their eligibility. Schools must register with their state Poetry Out Loud coordinator in order to participate in the official state competition. A student may not advance to the state finals without competing in a lower-level competition. Homeschooled students may participate by competing in a contest at a local school (at the school’s discretion) or with other local homeschooled students. The state Poetry Out Loud coordinator should be consulted for guidance on participation. A school-level competition must include at least two students. Students unable to participate at a local school should contact their state Poetry Out Loud coordinator to discuss any other opportunities for inclusion in the state’s official competition. A National Champion is not eligible to compete in subsequent years.


Are schools that are not part of the official contest welcome to participate in other ways?
All schools nationwide may visit www.poetryoutloud.org for free program materials. Using these materials, they are welcome to conduct their own "unofficial" poetry recitation competitions and introduce their students to classic and contemporary poetry.


Are program materials available?
The NEA and the Poetry Foundation will provide all program materials (teacher's guide, poetry anthology, CDs, posters) for distribution to participating schools. Visit www.poetryoutloud.org for online materials.


When will Poetry Out Loud take place?
Schools participating in the official competition implement the program and conduct classroom and school-level contests between September and December. Regional competitions are held in January. State contests are held in March, and the national finals take place in April in Washington, D.C.


Is there a prize for state finalists?
Each state-level final competition awards $1,000 in cash prizes. Each champion at the state level receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete for the national championship. The state winner's school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The second-place finalist in each state will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school library.


Are there prizes at the national finals?
Poetry Out Loud will award a total of $50,000 in scholarship prizes and school stipends at the national finals, including $20,000 for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists. The remaining nine finalists each receive $1,000, and the schools of the top 12 finalists each will receive $500 for the purchase of poetry books. In total, Poetry Out Loud will award more than $100,000 at state and national-level contests.


How can I get more information?
Visit www.poetryoutloud.org for more information, including educational resources for teachers and students, such as standards-based educational materials, tips on hosting a school contest, and 'find a poem' search tools. In South Carolina, contact the Poetry Out Loud Program Coordinator at the South Carolina Arts Commission.