South Carolina Arts Commission

South Carolina Arts Commission

Poetry Out Loud

Janae Claxton and Ken May

Poetry Out Loud:
National Recitation Contest

Each year, the South Carolina Arts Commission partners with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation to bring the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest to South Carolina high schools. The program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry—recitation and performance.

In 2018, Janae Claxton of Charleston, posing above with then S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May, was the first South Carolina student to win the National Poetry Out Loud competition! (Photo credit: James Kegley/NEA.)  Read more …

Contest Structure

Cool swag!
Cash prizes!
An all-expenses paid trip to Washington!

All of these could be yours by participating in Poetry Out Loud South Carolina.

Yes, Poetry Out Loud South Carolina (POL SC) is on in 2021/2022. However, to ensure the safety and health of participating students and staff, POL SC regionals will be held virtually as a video submission-based competition. All videos will be sent to the S.C. Arts Commission and forwarded to the appropriate POL SC regional partner. Our regional partners will select judges to review and rate video submissions to determine finalists for competition at the state level.

Who can participate?

  • Poetry Out Loud SC (POL SC) welcomes participation from any enrolled student in grades 9 -12 who attend a public, private, Montessori, charter, or home school.
  • No student may be excluded from participating in Poetry Out Loud on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin.
  • For additional eligibility guidelines, please visit the Poetry Out Loud website.

What about those prizes?

There are prizes for students and their sponsoring organizations (e.g., schools, theatres, community organizations, libraries). Each winner at the state level receives $200 and an all-expenses paid trip (with an adult chaperone) to Washington to compete at the national finals. The state winner’s school/organization receives $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up in each state receives $100 and $200 for their school/organization. At the national finals, a total of $50,000 in awards and school/organizational stipends is awarded annually.

How do I sign up? How do I prepare to compete?

We can help! The evaluation criteria, requirements, and some tips are below, along with some FAQ’s. We also have this brief video with further information.


Statewide partners

Regional partners

  • Region 1 – Hub City Writers Project
  • Region 2 – College of Charleston School of Humanities and Social Sciences

2020/2021 State Finalists

Rather than be completely upended like so much else in the 2020/2021 school year, Coordinator Bonita Peeples arranged a competition with a different structure. In lieu of class or school competitions, students in grades 9-12 were invited to submit videos to be judged in twin regional competitions. Those regionals yielded four finalists each to compete in the virtual state finals:

Congratulations to these students for reaching the South Carolina Finals:

  • Emily Allison (Greenville High School in Greenville)
  • Meenakshi Balachandran (Calvary Christian School in Myrtle Beach)
  • Simone Cory (James Island Charter School in Charleston)
  • Teagan Domm (Academic Magnet High School in Charleston)
  • Anna Matson (Aiken High School in Aiken)
  • Pagelyn Smalls (Charleston County School of the Arts in Charleston)
  • Caleb Xiao (Spartanburg Day School in Boiling Springs)
  • Jazmine Vivas Young (Charleston County School of the Arts in Charleston)

Poetry Out Loud 2021/2022

September 27 through Friday, December 17, 2021 (11:59 p.m.)
Accepting POL South Carolina Regionals applications

January 10-21, 2022
Adjudication of POL South Carolina Regionals applications

January 26, 2022
Announcement of state finalists

March 5, 2022
POL South Carolina State Finals (virtual or in-person TBD)

April 25-27, 2022
Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington


Free teacher resources are available online at

  • POL Poem Anthology containing over 600 poems.
  • Teacher lesson plans
  • Judge’s Guide, Advice for Judges, Contest Evaluation Sheets, Sample Tally Sheets and more are available to download for use during classroom and school competitions.
  • Recitation tips – audio and video clips are available to help students master the art of recitation
  • NCTE and Common Core Standards

Not participating in this year’s official competition? Your school can still run its own, unofficial program using the online materials on the National Poetry Out Loud website.


Poetry Out Loud satisfies most of the NCTE English/Language Arts Standards as well as many of the South Carolina English/Language Arts Standards. In addition to memorizing and performing great poems, students will have the opportunity to discuss poems and to write poetry of their own. The Program Guide includes optional lesson plans for the teacher, as well as all other elements the teacher needs to implement the program.


Accuracy – an Accuracy Judge will mark missed or incorrect words during the recitation

Physical presence – student should be poised—but not artificially so—projecting ease and confidence by his or her physical presence

Voice and articulation – student should be clear and loud enough to capture the audience’s attention, but watch out for students who mistake projection for yelling or communicate passion by shouting

Dramatic appropriateness – This category evaluates the interpretive and performance choices made by the student

Evidence of understanding – measures a student’s comprehension and mastery of a poem

Overall performance –  the student’s physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, and evidence of understanding all seem on target and unified to breathe life into the poem.

  • Students must begin by stating the title of the poem and the poet’s name, and the translator, if applicable.
  • A student’s own editorial comments before or after the poem are not allowed.
  • Poems must be recited from memory.

  • Face the camera so it captures a full-body shot (head near the top of the frame, feet near the bottom of the frame).
  • Each recitation should be filmed in one single shot from one static angle.
  • The sound and picture must be clear.
  • Videos cannot be edited. Do not add music, graphics, titles, virtual backgrounds, or computer animation.
  • Use of professional recording studios is prohibited.
  • One video submission per poem – 2 per student.


  • Stand in front of a neutral background, if possible. Try to avoid wearing clothing in similar colors to the background.
  • Do not place light sources behind you to avoid being backlit.
  • Students may look directly into the camera, at a fixed spot, or at an imagined audience.
  • Make sure you are the only visible and audible person in the video.
  • Use a microphone, if possible. If the microphone is on the camera, position the camera close to you.
  • Start recording a few seconds before the recitation and stop recording a few seconds after the end.

Examples of student filmed POL recitations can be found on the POL YouTube page.

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 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 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 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.

For more information, please contact Poetry Out Loud Coordinator Bonita Peeples ( | 803.734.8692).