What is Poetry Out Loud?

What is Poetry Out Loud?

Poetry Out Loud is a free program created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation for students in grades 9-12. Since 2005, the program has reached more than 4 million students and 65,000 teachers from 16,000 schools in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa. The program has helped students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage through classical and contemporary poetry.

Similar to the National Spelling Bee, Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest begins at the classroom level, as participating teachers use the free Poetry Out Loud toolkit to teach poetry recitations and run classroom competitions. The program does not require full class periods, and all teaching resources are aligned with NCTE ELA Standards, making it an excellent addition to existing curriculum.

Each school champion will go on to compete in the State Finals in Nashville, which includes an exciting weekend of activities and programs for the student and their educator. The winner of the State Finals receives $1,000, and goes on to represent Tennessee at the National Poetry Out Loud Finals. The winning student of the National Finals will receive $20,000 – an honor received by a Tennessee student in 2014!

NOTE: Due to the continuing impact of COVID-19, the 2020-2021 POL State Finals and National Finals will be held as virtual competitions.

Dates for the National semifinals and finals are:

  • May 2, 2021 – 2021 POL National Semifinals
  • May 27, 2021 – 2021 POL National Finals

The National Finals will be live-streamed at www.arts.gov

Who Can Participate?

Any high school group in Tennessee that teaches students in grades 9-12 can register to participate in Poetry Out Loud. Public, private, parochial, alternative, independent, as well as homeschool groups or organizations and school-sponsored after-school programs — are encouraged to participate. Contact Michelle Sipes, Arts Learning Specialist at michelle.sipes@tn.gov or 615-532-5934 with any questions about Poetry Out Loud in Tennessee.

Stay tuned for how to get involved with the 2022 Poetry Out Loud season!

How can I get started?

Get started by requesting free materials in the Request Materials Form or by downloading the guide online: POL-TeachersGuide-2020-2021. From there, teachers submit a School Registration Form to register as a participating school and implement the program in their school by leading a classroom or school-wide competition. Once your school winner has been selected, you can register the school winner for the Tennessee State Finals by submitting the State Finals Registration Form

For the 2020-2021 POL Season, the NEA is strongly encouraging virtual competitions at all levels, including classroom and school-wide competitions. For more information, refer to the NEA’s POL Virtual Competitions and Requirements_Form.

The Poetry Foundation has kindly put together a POL Poem Permissions List 2020-2021 and also new this year, a POL Poem Streaming Guide. Due to the likely increase of contests and POL poems being streamed this year, this guide provides an overview on how organizers may obtain streaming permissions for any needed poems. (Poems that currently do not have blanket streaming permissions are listed in red in the permissions list spreadsheet; the poems that do have permissions are listed in black.) This year’s poems can be found in the Master POL Anthology_2020-21. When reading through the Master POL Anthology, please remember to refer to the Poem Permissions List.

Schools planning to send students to the TN Statewide POL competition, please ensure that you have permissions for the poems students have selected and follow the step-by-step guidance within the guide. Please email poetryoutloud@arts.gov and jhaka@poetryfoundation.org with any questions regarding this process.




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