Poetry Out Loud National Finals Return to Washington, DC

Watch High School Students Compete for $20,000 Grand Prize May 9-10, 2023

Washington, DC and Chicago, IL—After two years of virtual competitions, the Poetry Out Loud® National Finals are returning to Washington, DC, this Spring, May 9–10, 2023, and will be streamed live at Arts.gov/Poetry-Out-Loud. This annual event brings together high school students from across the country who memorize and recite classic and contemporary poems, competing for the title of national champion and the $20,000 prize. Visit PoetryOutLoud.org for the list of the 2023 Poetry Out Loud state and jurisdictional champions who will take part in the competition.

A program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation along with state and jurisdictional arts agencies, Poetry Out Loud has reached more than 4.3 million students since it began in 2005. This year’s state and jurisdictional champions advanced from more than 158,000 students nationwide. 

“We are excited to welcome these students to Washington, DC, and look forward to witnessing their command of poetic expression as they share their recitations with us,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD. “Poetry Out Loud gives them the unique opportunity to reflect on their connection to the poems they select to memorize while also bolstering their confidence and public communication skills.”

“Witnessing young people recite poems with their own spirit and meaning through Poetry Out Loud is so inspiring, and I am grateful for the opportunity,” said Michelle T. Boone, president of the Poetry Foundation. “Congratulations to all of the participants; I know they have been putting in months of preparation to compete. Thank you to all these talented young people for recognizing the role that poetry and artistic expression can play in our lives and for sharing their gifts with us.”

A total of $50,000 in awards and school or organizational 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 for Poetry Out Loud. The Poetry Out Loud National Finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts.

National Semifinals—Tuesday, May 9, 2023

On Tuesday, May 9, 2023, the state and jurisdictional champions will compete in one of three National Semifinals between 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. ET at Lisner Auditorium, The George Washington University, 730 21st Street NW, Washington, DC.  All three Semifinals are free and open to the public—no ticket required.

Each poem recitation will be judged on criteria including physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy. The top three students from each semifinal, nine in total, will move on to the National Finals on May 10. 

  • 9:00 a.m. ET—Champions from Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
  • 1:00 p.m. ET—Champions from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
  • 5:00 p.m. ET—Champions from Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

National Finals—Wednesday, May 10, 2023

On Wednesday, May 10, 2023, the National Finals will take place at 7:00 p.m. ET, also at Lisner Auditorium, and will culminate with the live announcement of the 2023 Poetry Out Loud National Champion. This event is free and open to the public—no ticket required.

Update, April 26, 2023: Joy Sunday, from the recent television series Wednesday, will host the 2023 Poetry Out Loud National Finals.

Judges include Crisosto Apache, H-Dirksen L. Bauman, J. Nicole Brooks, Guadalupe García McCall, Diana Khoi Nguyen, and Brian Teare. The evening will also include a performance by bilingual singer-songwriter Alisa Amador, winner of the 2022 NPR Tiny Desk Contest.

In addition to the live competition at Lisner Auditorium, both the Semifinals and National Finals can be viewed via a one-time-only live webcast at Arts.gov/Poetry-Out-Loud.

Closed captioning in English and Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation will be provided for both the Poetry Out Loud National Semifinals and Finals.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using #POL23 and #IAmPoetryOutLoud and follow the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation at @PoetryOutLoud, @NEAArts, and @PoetryFound.

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 Mahogany L. Browne and announced at the May 10 National Finals competition.

About Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud starts at the classroom/school or at the local level with an area organization. Students memorize and recite poems they select from an anthology of more than 1,200 classic and contemporary poems. Winners then may advance to a regional and/or state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals. Since the program began in 2005, more than 4.3 million students and 76,000 teachers from 19,000 schools and organizations across the nation have participated in Poetry Out Loud. For more information about Poetry Out Loud and how to participate in the 2023–2024 program, visit poetryoutloud.org.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency that is the largest funder of the arts and arts education in communities nationwide and a catalyst of public and private support for the arts. By advancing equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice, the NEA fosters and sustains an environment in which the arts benefit everyone in the United States. Visit Arts.gov to learn more. 

About the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation recognizes the power of words to transform lives. The Foundation works to amplify poetry and celebrate poets by fostering spaces for all to create, experience, and share poetry. For more information, visit PoetryFoundation.org

About Mid Atlantic Arts

Mid Atlantic Arts supports artists, presenters, and organizations through unique programming, grant support, partnerships, and information sharing. Created in 1979, Mid Atlantic Arts is aligned with the region’s state arts councils and the National Endowment for the Arts. Mid Atlantic Arts combines state and federal funding with private support from corporations, foundations, and individuals to nurture diverse artistic expression while connecting people to meaningful arts experiences within our region and beyond. To learn more about Mid Atlantic Arts visit www.midatlanticarts.org.


Liz Auclair (NEA), auclaire@arts.gov, 202-682-5744
Elizabeth O’Connell-Thompson (Poetry Foundation), eoconnellthompson@poetryfoundation.org, 312-799-8065