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High School Students Nationwide to Compete in Poetry Out Loud National Finals

National Champion to Receive $20,000 Grand Prize

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A young woman speaks at a microphone with the Poetry Out Loud logo on a screen behind her.

2018 Poetry Out Loud National Champion Janae Claxton. The 2019 Poetry Out Loud National Finals will take place April 30-May 1, 2019. Photo by James Kegley

Washington, DC—The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation will welcome high school students from across the country to Washington, DC, April 30-May 1, 2019 to compete in the national finals of Poetry Out Loud and the chance to win a grand prize of $20,000. The 53 competitors represent every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and have advanced from a field of more than 275,000 students who participated in the program nationwide this year. Now in its 14th year, Poetry Out Loud encourages students to engage with great poetry through a dynamic recitation competition.

“Recent research from the National Endowment for the Arts reveals that for the first time in 15 years, poetry reading is on the rise, particularly among young adults,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Anyone watching a Poetry Out Loud recitation—whether it’s in a classroom or at the national finals—won’t be surprised by this news. It’s always inspiring to see students connect with poems and deliver recitations that display both confidence and understanding of the power of poetry.”

Click here for the list of 2019 Poetry Out Loud state champions.

A total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be awarded at the national finals, including $20,000 for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists. The Poetry Foundation provides and administers all aspects of the monetary prizes awarded and travel arrangements for Poetry Out Loud.

“Connecting students to poetry through the engaging format of recitation brings fresh energy, and interest to this timeless art form,” said Henry Bienen, president of the Poetry Foundation. “The Poetry Out Loud program offers a direct extension of our mission to celebrate poetry, and foster interest among the next generation of poetry readers, and writers.”

On Tuesday, April 30, 2019 the state champions will compete throughout the day in three semifinal rounds organized by region from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET at Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University, 730 21st Street NW, Washington, DC. The full schedule is available here.

The top nine finalists (three from each semi-final round) will advance to the finals competition on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, also at Lisner Auditorium, from 7:00 to 9:15 p.m. ET. Poet, author, and 2018 National Book Award recipient Elizabeth Acevedo will return for the fourth year as host of the National Finals, which will also include a performance by Kansas City-based mother/son duo Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear.

Media who wish to cover these events must send a request to Liz Auclair at auclaire@arts.gov.

These events are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. Both days of competition will also be available through a live, one-time-only webcast at arts.gov. Schools and organizations that wish to organize a viewing party of some or all of the competition can visit arts.gov for tips on hosting a viewing party and details on other viewing parties around the country. Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using #POL19.

The Poetry Out Loud state champions also have the opportunity to compete in the Poetry Ourselves competition by submitting an original work of poetry in one of two categories: either a written poem or a video of a spoken poem. The winner and runner-up in each category will be selected by poet Kyle Dargan and announced at the May 1 national finals competition.

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state arts agencies. Since 2005, 3.8 million students from 16,000 high schools nationwide have participated in this program. For schools that choose to participate, the program starts in the classroom, where teachers may use the Poetry Out Loud toolkit to teach poetry recitation and run classroom competitions. Students select, memorize, and recite poems from an anthology of more than 1,000 classic and contemporary poems. Winners advance from the classroom to the school-wide competition, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, DC. The Poetry Out Loud national finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. More information about the program and how to participate is available at poetryoutloud.org.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more.

About Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in American 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 literary prizes and programs. For more information, visit poetryfoundation.org.

About Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation develops partnerships and programs that reinforce artists’ capacity to create and present work and advance access to and participation in the arts. The Foundation was created in 1979 and is a private non-profit organization that is closely allied with the region’s state arts councils and the National Endowment for the Arts. It combines funding from state and federal resources with private support from corporations, foundations, and individuals to address needs in the arts from a regional, national, and international perspective. For more information, please visit www.midatlanticarts.org.