NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman and Poetry Foundation President John Barr Announce the 2012 National Finals of Poetry Out Loud, May 14-15, 2012

Live webcast of two-day competition available nationwide

Washington, DC -- From Moscow, Idaho, to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 53 students from across the country will converge in Washington, DC on May 14-15, 2012 to compete in the National Finals of Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, the nation's largest youth poetry recitation competition. These young competitors advanced from a field of some 365,000 students who tested their skills in poetry recitation in more than 2,000 schools nationwide. The top finalists and their schools will receive $50,000 in awards. Michael J. Bobbitt, the award-winning producing artistic director of Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo, Maryland, will host the Tuesday evening finals. Guest judges for the National Finals are poets Marilyn Chin and Major Jackson, PBS NewsHour Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown, Poetry Society of America Executive Director Alice Quinn, and Prairie Home Companion Host Garrison Keillor.
Now in its seventh year of national competition, Poetry Out Loud is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. The program encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools students across the country. Poetry Out Loud gives students an opportunity to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. 

The 53 champions will gather at the Poetry Out Loud semifinals on Monday, May 14, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Harman Center for the Arts, 610 F St NW Washington, DC. Nine finalists will advance to the National Finals, also held at the Harman Center, on Tuesday, May 15, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. 

Both events are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. Both the semifinals and finals can be viewed remotely through a one-time-only live webcast. Follow Poetry Out Loud on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POLnews. For more information on the event and webcast, visit or call 202-682-5551.

"Our latest research shows that students -- especially at-risk students -- who get arts education also tend to have better academic results, and even higher career goals," said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "The Poetry Out Loud competition offers similar linked benefits. Students like the contest aspect, then they learn about poetry, and they also learn how to excel in a challenging situation." 

"The national recitation program brings fresh energy to an ancient art form by returning it to the classrooms of America," said John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation. "In memorizing great poems, these students make deep connections to poetry that will reward them throughout their lives."

Poetry Out Loud Partnerships  The National Finals are the culmination of efforts by many partners. As national partners, the NEA and the Poetry Foundation have contributed support for administration of the program, educational materials, and awards for both the state and national finals. State arts agencies have implemented the program in high schools nationwide and organized state competitions, often in collaboration with local arts organizations. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

Schools that are interested in registering for the 2012-2013 Poetry Out Loud contest should contact their state arts agency. More information is available at

Educational Materials The NEA and the Poetry Foundation provide free, standards-based curriculum materials for Poetry Out Loud, which include poetry anthologies containing more than 650 classic and contemporary poems, a teacher's guide, video footage of performances from the National Finals, and audio tracks about the art of recitation. Schools are welcome to download these resources at

Contests and Awards Using a pyramid structure, Poetry Out Loud starts with classroom and schoolwide activities and contests between September 2011 and February 2012. State contests were held by mid-March; the 53 champions of contests in every state, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC compete at the National Finals. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals will present a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends for the purchase of poetry books. Awards include $20,000 for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists.  Each state-level final has awarded $1,000 in cash awards to the champion, runner up, and their schools.  In total, Poetry Out Loud will award more than $100,000 to state- and national-level winners.

About Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation develops partnerships and programs that reinforce artists' capacity to create and present work, advance access to and participation in the arts, and promote a more sustainable arts ecology.

About the National Endowment for the Arts  The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA

About the Poetry Foundation The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative partnerships, prizes, and programs. 


Sally Gifford 202-682-5606