Poetry Out Loud

The Poetry Out Loud: Recitation Contest was created in 2006 by the National Endowment for the Arts under chairman Dana Gioia and The Poetry Foundation. The contest seeks to increase awareness in the art of performing poetry, with substantial cash prizes being awarded to schools that participate, and includes representatives from each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Poetry Out Loud Logo.jpg

The contest currently features a list of about 900 (formerly 600) poems for students to choose from. Typically, competition begins at the school level, where students recite one to two poems. The 1st and sometimes 2nd place winners are then sent to regional competitions. The finalist(s) from each region then are sent to the state level to perform three poems. Each state winner later performs the same three poems in Washington D.C. during the last week of April/first week of May.


Originally created as a means by which students could become more involved in poetry and the spoken word, the Poetry Out Loud competition is currently run in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Each state runs its own competition relatively independent of all others. In general, a high school competition is followed by a regional competition and then a statewide competition. State Champions then compete in Washington D.C. for the top prize. In order to facilitate a smooth and effective competition, competitors are divided into three groups, or regions. Each region holds its own semifinal, and sends three (formerly four) competitors to the final round. The final nine (formerly twelve) then each recite two poems, and the top three (formerly five) recite a third poem. After this third poem has been recited, judges (usually celebrities of the poetry world, or well-known literary figures) select the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. 1st place wins $20,000, 2nd wins $10,000, and 3rd wins $5,000. 4th-9th place take home $1,000. All 53 finalists will have won $200 from their state competition, along with a stipend for their high school to purchase poetry books.

Poem criteriaEdit

Contestants have specific criteria for the poems at the state and national level. All poems must be selected from the online or paper anthology to be eligible for competition. One poem must be from the Pre-20th century and one must be 25 lines or fewer. One poem can account for both criteria, leaving the second and third poem open with no restrictions. The goal of these rules to is to expose students to poetry that they otherwise may have not had an interest in and to set a standard that all students are held accountable to. It also ensures that the poetry is not obscene or too long in length.



The 2006 State Champions of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest.

Jackson Hille of Columbus Alternative High School in Ohio is the National Champion. He received a $20,000 scholarship courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts. Other honors went to Teal Van Dyck of Bow High School in New Hampshire, who won second place and a $10,000 scholarship. Kellie Anae of Mid-Pacific Institute in Hawaii won third place and a $5,000 scholarship.[1]


The 2007 National Poetry Out Loud Champion was Amanda Fernandez, of the District of Columbia. Branden Emanual Wellington of Indiana placed second, and third place went to Alanna Rivera, of Virginia.


Representing the Virgin Islands, Shawntay Henry became the 2008 National Champion; the first time the Virgin Islands participated in the competition. Ms. Henry was a 10th grade student at the time of her award. Her competition winning poems included "Fredrick Douglas", by Robert Hayden; the performance of which was notably powerful.


With the Poetry Out Loud program growing at an incredible rate, more than 300,000 students competed in the nationwide competition in 2009. First Place went to the Representative from Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, William Farley. Second place was awarded to Barbara Gooding, of Kentucky. Kareem Sayegh, representing Illinois, was awarded third place. Rounding out the top five were Mido Aly, of Ohio, and Wiyaka His Horse Is Thunder, of South Dakota.


First Place went to the representative from Rhode Island, Amber Rose Johnson. Second place was awarded to Ruth Haile, of South Dakota. Nora Sandler, representing Maryland, was awarded third place.


Youssef Biaz of Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama captured the national title with his reading of Elizabeth Bishop's "Filling Station". The runner-up prize went to Victoria DiMartile of Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, while DeVonna Daisy Smith of Reading, Pennsylvania placed third.[2]


Kristen Dupard of Ridgeland, Mississippi was named the 2012 Poetry Out Loud National Champion. Rounding out the top three were Claude Mumbere of Burlington, Vermont in second place and MarKaye Hassan of Logan, Utah in third place.


Langston Ward of Spokane, Washington took home the top prize with his recitation of "The Gift" by Li-Young Lee at the 2013 National Finals. Coming close behind in second was Blessed Sheriff of Rockville, Maryland. Third prize went to Denise L. Burns of Lawton, Oklahoma.


Representing Tennessee, Anita Norman made her home town of Arlington proud by earning first place for her performance of "Let the Light Enter" by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Columbus, Ohio and Lawrenceville, New Jersey were also honored by the second and third place finishers, Lake Wilburn and Natasha Simone Vargas.


Reciting "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats, Maeva Ordaz of Anchorage, Alaska claimed first place. Reciting the same John Keats poem, Paris Stroud of Dallas, Georgia took home the second prize. Casey Goggin from Southern Pines, North Carolina placed third.


Ahkei Togun of Virginia Beach, Virginia wowed audiences and won first place with his recitation of "I'm a Fool to Love You" by Cornelius Eady in his unique clothing choice——shorts. Marta Palombo from Atlanta, Georgia secured second place, while rising star Nicholas Amador of Punahou, Hawaii took third.


Following the lead of her successful Poetry Out Loud Georgian winners before her, Samara Huggins of Mableton, Georgia was awarded first place after her reading of "Novel" by Arthur Rimbaud. Also successful was second time national finalist Nicholas Amador of Punahou, Hawaii. Rounding out third was Iree Mann from Syosset, New York.


Charleston, South Carolina native Janae Claxton breathed life into poetry with her first place performance of C.K. Williams' "The Gaffe." For the third year in a row, Nicholas Amador of Punahou, Hawaii claimed a top spot, earning second place to finish off his senior year competition. Third place was awarded to Hope Stratman from Omaha, Nebraska.


  1. ^ "Making Poetry Come Alive: Poetry Out Loud 2006 National Finals" Archived 2008-07-04 at the Wayback Machine, NEA ARTS 2006, Volume 3, National Endowment for the Arts. Accessed January 26, 2008.
  2. ^ THE 2011 NATIONAL FINALS, retrieved May 10, 2011.

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