About the Program

Program overview

Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contestis 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 Loudwas created in partnership by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation with the collaboration of state arts agencies as a way to foster the next generation of literary readers by building on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the popularity of rap music.  Through Poetry Out Loud, students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. 

Contest structure

The Poetry Out Loud contest uses a pyramid structure.  Beginning at the high school classroom level, teachers implement a two-to-three week curriculum using free, standards-based materials including print and online poetry anthologies containing more than 600 classic and contemporary poems, a teacher’s guide, and a CD and a DVD on the art of recitation.  Classroom studies culminate with a contest in which each student selects and recites poems from the Poetry Out Loudanthology. Classroom winners advance to school-wide recitation competitions, and school champions advance to regional and state competitions, and ultimately to the National Finals.   The 2011 Poetry Out Loud National Finals will take place on April 29 at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC.


At each Poetry Out Loud state final competition, $1,000 in cash and school stipends will be awarded.  Each champion at the state level will receive $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, DC, 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. 

Students at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals will be competing for $50,000 in cash awards and school stipends, including $20,000 for the Poetry Out LoudNational Champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists. In total, Poetry Out Loud will award more than $100,000 at state- and national-level contests.


The Arts Endowment and the Poetry Foundation implemented a pilot program in Washington, DC- and Chicago-area schools in 2005.  Starting with the 2005-2006 school year, Poetry Out Loud has presented a national competition, reaching high school students in every state and the District of Columbia.  In 2008, the U.S. Virgin Islands joined the nationwide competition, followed by Puerto Rico in 2009.  An estimated 363,000 students from more than 1,900 schools participated in the 2010-2011 Poetry Out Loud competition.