Getting Started with Poetry Out Loud

What is Poetry Out Loud?

Poetry Out Loud™ is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country, including 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. Since the program began in 2005, more than 4.1 million students and 68,000 teachers from 17,000 schools and organizations have participated in Poetry Out Loud.

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.

A total of $50,000 in awards and school/organization stipends will be given at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, including a $20,000 award for the National Champion (an honor won by the TN Champion in 2014), $10,000 for 2nd place (an honor won by the TN Champion in 2021), $5,000 for 3rd place, and $1,000 for 4th–9th places. The representing schools or organizations of each of the top nine finalists receive $500 for the purchase of poetry materials.

Who Can Participate?

All types of high schools are welcome to participate, including public, private, parochial, independent, charter, etc., as well as homeschool students. Non-school organizations, such as after-school clubs, libraries, or nonprofit organizations, may choose to run Poetry Out Loud as well. Students may only compete in one stream—either with their school or an organization. Only schools and organizations registered with their state Poetry Out Loud coordinator are eligible for the competition. Students unable to participate at their school or a local organization should contact their state Poetry Out Loud coordinator to discuss other opportunities for inclusion in the state’s official competition.

Contact Julia Stark, Arts Learning Specialist, at or 615-532-5934 with any questions about Poetry Out Loud in Tennessee.

School Year Timeline

  • Summer 2022: Request materials via this form or contact TN State POL Coordinator, Julia Stark at
  • Fall 2022: Help students choose poems, study and memorize, and plan school competitions. Register school competition.
  • Winter 2022: Hold school competitions.
  • January 13, 2023: Deadline to register school’s POL competition
  • February 3, 2023: Deadline to register School Champion for State Finals.
  • March 3-4, 2023: TN POL State Finals at the TN State Museum in Nashville, TN.
  • May 8-10, 2023: The POL National Finals in Washington, D.C.

How can I get started?

  1. Contact TN State POL Coordinator, Julia Stark at
  2. Get started by downloading the POL_Teachers Guide 2022-2023.
  3. 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.
  4. Hold a School Competition.
  5. Once your school winner has been selected, you can register the school winner for the Tennessee State Finals (March 3-4, 2023) by submitting the State Finals Registration Form.

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 and with any questions regarding this process.

Take a look at the 2022-2023 Online POL Poetry Anthology with over 1,100 poems! 


Contact Julia Stark, Arts Learning Specialist, at or at 615-532-5934.



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