NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman and Poetry Foundation President John Barr Announce the 2011 National Finals of Poetry Out Loud, April 28-29, 2011

Award-winning actress Kerry Washington to host Finals, which will be webcast live

WHAT: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation announce the 2011 National Finals of Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, a program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. On Thursday, April 28, 53 high school students who advanced from poetry recitation championships in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands will gather at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC to match their skills in reciting classic and contemporary poetry from William Shakespeare to Nikki Giovanni. Nine of the 53 state champions will advance to compete in the National Finals on Friday, April 29.  The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will award a total of $50,000 in cash and school stipends for the purchase of poetry books. Award-winning actress Kerry Washington, a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, will host the Friday evening finals. 

WHO: Featured speakers and participants at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals: Award-winning actress and President’s Committee on the Arts Member Kerry Washington; NEA; NEA Deputy Chairman Patrice Walker Powell; Poetry Foundation President John Barr; National Finals guest judges are poets Valerie MartínezThomas Sayers Ellis, and Brian Turner, actress and author Amber Tamblyn, playwright/actress/director Aditi Brennan Kapil, and Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director Michael Kahn.

WHEN/WHERE:  Poetry Out Loud National Semifinals – Thursday, April 28, 9:00 am - 8:00 pm, Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U Street, NW, Washington, DC.  Media interview opportunities will take place after each semifinal round.

  • 9:00 am – 12:00 pm - First Semifinal: students from East Central and Northeast States
  • 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm - Second Semifinal: students from Midwest and South Central states
  • 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm - Third Semifinal: students from Upper Northwest and Western states

Poetry Out Loud National Finals – Friday, April 29, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U Street, NW, Washington, DC.  The nine National Finalists will be available for pre-event interviews from 6:00 - 6:30 pm.  Photo and interview opportunities with Finalists, judges, and featured speakers take place onstage after the event, 9:15 – 9:45 pm.

OTHER: The Poetry Out Loud Semifinals and National Finals are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required.  Both events will offer ASL interpretation. For more information call 202-682-5001 or visit

WEBCAST: The semifinals and finals can be viewed remotely through a closed captioned, one-time-only live webcast.

FOLLOW: Poetry Out Loud is on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POLnews. 

CONTACT: Media must RSVP to Sally Gifford, NEA Communications, 202-682-5606. Video crews covering the Friday night National Finals must arrive by 6:45 pm to reserve a space.


Sally Gifford (NEA)

Kristin Esch
(Poetry Foundation)