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

Award-winning playwright Anna Deavere Smith to host National Finals. Join Poetry Out Loud online via live webcast, viewing parties, and social media

At the end of National Poetry Month, 53 students from across the country will converge in Washington, DC, on  April 29-30, 2013 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 375,000 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. Anna Deavere Smith, the award-winning playwright, actress, and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship Award, will host the Tuesday evening finals. Guest judges for the National Finals 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 at the National Finals is singer-cellist Ben Sollee.

Now in its eighth 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 school 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, April 29, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Lisner Auditorium at The George Washington University, 730 21st Street NW, Washington, DC.  Nine finalists will advance to the National Finals, also held at Lisner Auditorium, on Tuesday, April 30, from 7:00 to 9:15 p.m.  Both events are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required.

“Since the first national Poetry Out Loud contest in 2006, more than two million high school students, and tens of thousands of teachers at thousands of high schools have taken this program and made it their own," said NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa. "We are delighted to work in partnership with the Poetry Foundation, with state arts agencies, local arts organizations, schools, and teachers to help students discover the art of poetry."

"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. "Once memorized by these students, great poems become their friends for life."

Judges for the semifinal rounds include poets Fady Joudah and Simone Muench; Pink Line Project founder Philippa Hughes; Robert Casper of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress; Cave Canem Foundation Executive Director Alison Meyers, Barrelhouse Poetry Editor Dan Brady, NPR Senior Producer Elizabeth Blair, and Andy Shallal, proprietor of the Busboys and Poets restaurant chain.

Poetry Out Loud goes multimedia with a live webcast and viewing parties

Not in Washington, DC but still want to catch the competition? You can watch the entire semifinals and finals through a live, one-time only webcast at Or make plans now to gather fellow poetry fans and host a Poetry Out Loud Webcast Viewing Party. Register here and find tips on hosting your party, promotional materials, and details on other viewing parties around the country.

We're also taking Poetry Out Loud online on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POL13. For more information on the event, webcast, or viewing parties, visit or call 202-682-5606.

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 interested in registering for the 2013-2014 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 started with classroom and schoolwide activities and contests between September 2012 and February 2013. 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. At the state-level finals the champion, runner up, and their schools received $1,000 in cash awards. 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 at

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