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.

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

Contest Structure

Poetry Out Loud begins at the classroom level, with winners from each classroom advancing to a school-wide competition and then to regional competitions. Regional winners advance to South Carolina’s statewide competition. Ultimately, one student from each state will compete in the national finals in Washington, D.C.

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.

Partners

Statewide partners

Regional partners

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

Poetry Out Loud 2018/2019

  • Thursday, November 27, 2018
    • Deadline for schools and teachers to sign up for Poetry Out Loud in South Carolina.
    • Teacher Registration Form due to S.C. Arts Commission.

  • September – November 2018
    Materials sent to participating schools and classrooms.

Note: Schools and teachers can only receive program kits if they plan to participate in the official competition; otherwise all materials are available online.


  • September- December 2018
    Schools implement classroom and school competitions.

  • Friday, December 14, 2018
    • Deadline for schools to hold school competitions and notify the S.C. Arts Commission of school champion’s name and grade level.
    • Deadline for school champion to register to compete in their assigned regional competition.
    • Student Registration Form due to S.C. Arts Commission.

    *Note: Poem selection and order of recitation may not be changed after this date.


  • January 2019 – Regional Competitions
    • Saturday, January 19—Region 1: Spartanburg, S.C.
    • Sunday, January 20—Region 2: Charleston, S.C.

  • Friday, February 8, 2019
    • Deadline for regional winners to register to compete in State Finals.
    • State Finals Registration Form due to S.C. Arts Commission.

    Note: State Finals Registration Form will notify POL Coordinator of student’s poem selections and order of recitation for State Finals.  Poem selection and recitation order may not be changed after this date.


  • Saturday, March 9, 2019
    South Carolina Poetry Out Loud State Finals, Richland Library Main Branch, Columbia, S.C., 3:00 – 5:00 pm.

  • Thursday, March 21, 2019
    Deadline for South Carolina State Champion to register for POL National Finals.

  • April 29-May 1, 2019
    Poetry Out Loud National Finals, Washington, DC

Regional Competition: Region 1

Date: Jan. 19, 2019
Time: 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Location: the Barrett Room at the Spartanburg Public Library HQ, 151 S Church St, Spartanburg, SC 29306

Counties: Abbeville, Aiken, Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Lexington, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Richland, Saluda, Spartanburg, Union, and York


Regional Competition: Region 2

Date: Jan. 20, 2019
Time: 1:30 – 4:00 p.m.
Location: College of Charleston, Stern Student Center, 71 George Street, Charleston, S.C. 29424

Counties: Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Sumter, and Williamsburg


State Finals 

Date: March 9, 2019
Time: 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Richland Library Main Branch, Columbia, S.C. 29201

The state finals competition includes equally ranked finalists from each region.


National Finals
Date: April 29-May 1, 2019
Location: Washington, DC

For more information about the National Finals, visit the national Poetry Out Loud website.

The schedule and curriculum for Poetry Out Loud have been intentionally designed to fit into a teacher’s busy schedule without much disruption. The program can take place over two to three weeks, according to each teacher’s interest and schedule, and does not require full class periods during that time.

Free program materials

Every teacher who participates in Poetry Out Loud will receive a complimentary toolkit for classroom use. Each toolkit contains the Teacher’s Guide and Poetry Out Loud posters for the classroom and other competition venues.

In addition to the classroom toolkit, free teacher resources are available online at www.poetryoutloud.org.

Online resources

  • 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.

NCTE and South Carolina Standards and classroom time

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.

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.

For more information, please contact Poetry Out Loud Coordinator Zuri Wilson-Seymore at ZWSeymore@arts.sc.gov or 803.734.8692.