Poetry Out Loud

POL2016_color(Kbgnd)(LR)In 2006, Poetry Out Loud became a national program in which high school students combine memorization and recitation with performance. As the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of hip-hop music suggest, recitation and performance are current trends in the poetry world. Poetry Out Loud builds on the recent resurgence of poetry as an oral art form. By combining the spoken word, the dynamic nature of slam poetry, and elements of theater, the program brings a vital, participatory approach to poetry into the English class. Poetry Out Loud competitions teach students to appreciate poetry of all types and encourage them to incorporate great poetry into their lives. By taking part in the competitions, whether at the school, regional, state, or national level, students also gain public speaking skills and learn to develop their own poetic voice. Each student selects two poems to memorize from among over 600 selections available in the Poetry Out Loud online anthology. The poems have been carefully chosen to represent a diverse array of authors, eras, styles, and tones so that students can discover something that they connect with. The point is to introduce students the vast cannon of poetry. And in the process they get to:

  • discover a new, dynamic approach to poetry
  • develop an intimate connection with both classic and modern literature
  • learn to interpret the emotions of a poem by giving it a close reading
  • engage in active learning by memorizing a poem through the use of “body memory” and gestures
  • acquire public speaking skills
  • see language arts highlighted on the national stage

The competition levels are structured like the National Spelling Bee. Students compete first at the classroom and then at the school level. Schools select one candidate to send to the regional finals where one winner will continue to the state competition in Tacoma. The state winner receives a cash prize and an expenses-paid trip to Washington DC, where the national finals take place. The national finalist is awarded a $20,000 scholarship. Second- and third-place winners receive $10,000 and $5,000 scholarships, respectively. In addition, state and national winners earn a stipend that enables their school library to purchase books. Last year, over 200,000 students participated in the program. Visit www.poetryoutloud.org for more information. If you are interested in participating, contact poetryoutloud509@gmail.com. Poetry Out Loud is sponsored nationally by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and is administered statewide by the Washington State Arts Commission.


PrintReady to register your classroom for Poetry Out Loud? Fill out the registration form here. 2016-2017 Poetry Out Loud calendar:

  • Registration deadline: November 18, 2016
  • Classroom Implementation: any 2-3 weeks between September 2016 and early January 2017
  • School Finals deadline: January 20, 2017
  • Regional Final: February 1, 2017 at The Bartlett, Spokane
  • State Final: Early March, 2017; Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, Tacoma
  • National Finals: April 24-26, 2017, Washington, D.C.

Regional Final

POL2016_color(Kbgnd)(LR)The Eastern Washington Region final will be held Wednesday, Feb. 1st at 7pm, from 7-9pm. Students from participating high schools across Eastern Washington will perform two poems apiece. One or two of the top scorers will advance to the state competition in Tacoma! The 2017 Regional Finals Judges will be Laura Read, Tim Greenup, and Nance Van Winckel. This year’s competition will be held at The Bartlett, a beautiful all-ages music venue in downtown Spokane. The Bartlett has both food and beverages available for purchase. For directions and a map, visit here. Parking options include street parking on the surrounding blocks, as well as two pay-to-park lots on the same block as the venue. As always, admission to the regional finals is free! We encourage teachers to publicize the event as much as possible within their respective schools, so that peers turn out to support their school’s representative. We also encourage families to attend the event and celebrate what these wonderful students have accomplished during the year! Student participants in the event will be asked to arrive early, at 6 p.m. The competition itself will begin at 7 p.m.


POL_pngRegistration and materials are free to all participating high schools. Once a school has signed up for the program, Get Lit! receives an automatic notification, prompting us to send out the packet of materials to each school. Participating teachers receive the following resources to help guide their students through Poetry Out Loud:

  • a NCTE standards-based Teacher Guide
  • an audio CD with sample readings by famous writers and actors, as well as advice on performing poetry
  • a Learning Recitation DVD with memorization tips and also includes footage from past finalists and winners

The Poetry Out Loud website at www.poetryoutloud.org also has many tools for both teachers and students, including online versions of several of the resources listed above.  The website includes a searchable database of eligible poems, as well as a copy of the guidelines that judges base their scoring on.

Teacher Webinars

POL2016_color(LR)All high school teachers of English, Language Arts, Drama, or related classes, especially teachers who are new to the Poetry Out Loud program, are invited to participate in the POL Professional Development Webinars. If you have already participated in the Poetry Out Loud program, come and share your knowledge and find out what’s new this year. The webinars will answer the following questions:

  • What is Poetry Out Loud?
  • How do you run a successful classroom and school-wide program?
  • What does good poetry recitation look like?
  • What are some of the strategies for teaching memorization and recitation?
  • What are the criteria for judging your own classroom competition?
  • Q& A session




Thursday, October 27th, 3:30 pm (register by the end of the day Monday, October 24th)

Monday, November 14th, 4:00pm (register by the end of the day Wednesday, November 10th)

To register for a webinar session, email Judy Cullen, Poetry Out Loud Coordinator, poetry.out.loud@arts.wa.gov.


PrintHere are some sample videos from the Washington State Poetry Out Loud Finals, held in Tacoma each year. 2011 Will Hamel 2012 Bonnie Blanchard 2013  Our Eastern Washington region sent two finalists to state in 2013: Tom Zbyszewski and Langston Ward.  They took the top two spots at state. Langston, who placed first at state, also went on to win the National Finals! 2014  Elizabeth Mo Watch more past performances here.