Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud is a contest open to all Oregon high school students. It is a free program that encourages young performers to dive into American poetry through memorization and competitive performance.

Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in partnership with the Oregon Arts Commission and other state arts agencies. 

**The NEA has announced that the 2021 national finals will be virtual and strongly encourages contest organizers at all levels to hold virtual events. In accordance with that direction, Oregon’s state and regional events will also be virtual in 2021. Any contest organizer who declines to hold a virtual contest, and elects to hold an in-person event, is urged to follow any federal, state and local guidelines in regard to slowing the spread of COVID-19. This may include wearing masks, enforcing social distancing measures, hand sanitizing, and ensuring participants and guests are not displaying symptoms of COVID-19 prior to attending, and while participating in, a POL event.**


To participate this year, register your school by January 15, 2021.

How does it work?

Poetry Out Loud starts at school; under leadership from a classroom teacher or other school staff person. Poetry study happens sometimes as part of a school day class project or sometimes after school. 

One winner from each school advances to a regional contest and the top three contestants from each region proceed to the state championship. One finalist from each state goes on to the National Finals, which will be virtual in 2021. Regional and state events in Oregon will also be held virtually.

How much does it cost to participate?

Poetry Out Loud is free! Lesson plans are available online. In years with in-person contests, travel assistance to events may be available.

Who may participate?

Poetry Out Loud is for currently enrolled students in grades 9-12. Accommodations for home school students will be made on a case-by-case basis.

For a full list of participation requirements for regional, state and national events, please refer to the national Poetry Out Loud site: www.poetryoutloud.org

What do I have to do?

School registration must take place by January 15, 2021. If more than one classroom is participating, hold classroom competitions to determine which students will compete in your school-wide event.

Hold a school competition to determine one winner by mid-February, 2021. This will involve arranging a panel of at least two judges. Then, register your school champion for a regional contest (date TBA). 

Educational Impact

Poetry Out Loud enables students to engage with great poetry and helps them practice public speaking skills while building self-confidence.

“I loved listening to the state contest, but it was even more gratifying to hear some of my previously shy students speak beautiful words with confidence.”

—Participating Teacher

"Brynn enjoyed the poetry experience on a whole new level. She can better analyze poems and reach a deeper understanding far beyond her previous capabilities. Because she is an aspiring writer, this additional ability to have insight and thoughtfulness to the poetry and prose that she reads is a forever gift. It will serve her well throughout her life.”

—Parent of Oregon State Champion

What do my students get?

Students gain a deep understanding and appreciation of poetry, practice speaking publicly, and the opportunity to cultivate self-confidence.

“If one did not appreciate the power poetry can hold before listening to these performances, one would definitely reconsider his feelings toward poetry after that night!” —Summer, Senior

“I can recognize not only how to speak in front of the public but also how to express my emotions with my poems.” 

—Hien, Junior Exchange Student

There are also scholarship prizes available. Each state champion receives $200 and a chance to compete in the national finals. The state champion’s school library receives $500 for the purchase of poetry books. The state runner-up receives $100 and the school receives $200 to buy poetry books.

National champions receive a $20,000 scholarship. The second-place winner receives a $10,000 scholarship; third-place winner receives $5,000; and fourth-to twelfth-place winners each receive $1,000. The schools of the top twelve finalists each receive $500 for the purchase of poetry books.

Important Dates

Details about 2021 events are still developing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The safety of our students and teachers our top priority.

January 15, 2021
Deadline to submit school registration information

February 18, 2021
Deadline to hold school contests and determine a school winner
(verify eligibility of school winner to participate in regional, state and national contests before proceeding)

February 2021: TBD
Deadline to register school winners for regional contests. 

Early March 2021
Virtual Regional Contests

March 2021
Deadline for regional finishers to register for state contest (registration link to come)

March 12 or 13, 2021 
Virtual State Contest

April 2021
Virtual National Contest

Oregon Arts Commission

(503) 986-0082 (phone)
(503) 581-5115 (fax)
775 Summer Street NE, Ste 200
Salem, OR 97301-1280