NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa and Poetry Foundation President John Barr Announce the 2013 National Finals of Poetry Out Loud, April 29-30, 2013

Publication based on symposium co-hosted by the NEA and the Brookings Institution

WHAT: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation announce the 2013 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 Monday, April 29, 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 Lisner Auditorium at The George Washington University to match their skills in reciting classic and contemporary poetry, from William Shakespeare to Brenda Cárdenas. Nine of the 53 state champions will advance to compete in the National Finals on Tuesday, April 30. 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 playwright Anna Deavere Smith will host the Tuesday evening finals. The semifinals and finals will be webcast live with viewing parties around the country. 

WHO: Speakers and participants at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals: Anna Deavere Smith, award-winning playwright, actress, and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship Award. Guest judges are poets Patricia Smith and Eduardo Corral;BBC Correspondent Jane O'Brien; Kevin Dyels, director of the Interpreting Services Division of TCS Associates; and Tree Swenson, executive director of the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. The featured performer is Ben Sollee.  
WHEN/WHERE:  Poetry Out Loud National Semifinals – Monday, April 29, 9:00 am - 8:00 pm ET, Lisner Auditorium at The George Washington University, 730 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC. Media interviews offered after each semifinal round.

  • 9:00 am - 12:00 pm - First Semifinal: students from East Central and Northeast States (CT, DE, DC, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, VI, VT, VA, WV)
  • 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm - Second Semifinal: students from Midwest and South Central states (AL, AR, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MI, MS, MO, NE, OK, PR, TN, WI)
  • 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm - Third Semifinal: students from Upper Northwest and Western states (AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MN, MT, NV, NM, ND, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY)

Congressional breakfast for 53 Poetry Out Loud champions – Tuesday, April 30, 9:00 am – 10:30 am ET.  Cannon House Office Building, Caucus Room, 3rd Floor, Independence Avenue and 1st Street, SE, Washington, DC The breakfast for all 53 champions will feature visits by Members of Congress. This event is not open to the public.

Poetry Out Loud National Finals – Tuesday, April 30, 7:00 pm – 9:15 pm ET, Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University, 730 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC. Pre-event interviews with the nine National Finalists take place from 6:00 – 6:30 pm. Post-event photos and interviews opportunities with Finalists, judges, and speakers take place onstage, 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 202-682-5606 or visit

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

FOLLOW: Poetry Out Loud is on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POL13. 

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


NEA Sally Gifford

Poetry Foundation Kristin Gecan