Poetry Out Loud



Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation competition for high school students, started by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in 2005. The goal is to provide students an opportunity to read and recite great poems while enhancing their public speaking and presentation skills. 

Poetry Out Loud is administered in partnership with the State Arts Agencies of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. Using the Poetry Out Loud curriculum, teachers guide students toward a deeper understanding of the power of language and literature. Students develop a personal relationship with great poems while learning about their literary heritage through poetry recitation. Plus, participants master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and improve their reading comprehension scores. Each school holds a recitation contest to determine a school champion. 

In Florida, Poetry Out Loud is implemented in approximately 60 high schools and impacts 9,000- 11,000 students each year. The program brings a unit of poetry into the classroom and introduces students to a breadth of poets from a variety of backgrounds. This culminates in a school-wide competition where students channel their newly found favorite poets and recite their work. Each school’s winner is invited to compete at the state competition held in St. Petersburg each year. The State Champion’s school library receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. More than $50,000 in prizes and school stipends are awarded annually at the National Finals in April, with the national winner receiving $20,000 in college scholarship funds. This year’s competition, normally held in Washington, DC, will be conducted virtually. 


  • Monday, December 28 2020
    Deadline to register

  • October – December 2020
    Distribution of Teacher Toolkits to participating teachers/schools

  • February 1, 2021
    Deadline for participating schools to send video submissions of local student champions for State Finals

  • March 6, 2021 10am
    State Finals to be hosted virtually by the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus

  • May, 2 2021
    National Semifinals

  • May, 27 2021
    National Final


This project is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. 


Poetry Foundation logo


Culture Builds Florida logo


National Endowment of the Arts logo



Interested teachers may review the Poetry Out Loud classroom materials, poems, instructions and other resources at poetryoutloud.org. While teachers, students, and poetry lovers everywhere can use the Poetry Out Loud website to organize their own contests, the sanctioned contest is limited to the programs run by each states’ arts agency. Schools that would like to participate in Florida’s official Poetry Out Loud program, receive the Poetry Out Loud toolkit, and send a student to Florida’s Poetry Out Loud State Finals should register their school. Within two weeks of registering, schools will receive the Poetry Out Loud toolkit which includes a Teacher’s Guide, lessons plans, promotional posters and a “Learning Recitation” Companion Guide and DVD. 


USF St. Petersburg campus will host a virtual competition for the 2021 Poetry Out Loud State of Florida State Championship on March 6, 2021. Winners of each school competition should submit videos reciting three (3) poems by February 1, 2021.


We are excited to announce a new program: Poetry Out Loud Gets Original (POLGO), which invites students to submit original poetry. POLGO is a complementary competition in which students who participated in the state of Florida POL programming and competitions this year are invited to create and submit their own original poetry for the potential to be included in an anthology that will be published and disseminated to participants. 

USF St. Petersburg campus is partnering on the POLGO competition with Keep St. Pete Lit, a non-profit organization that celebrates and promotes greater St. Petersburg’s literary community through arts, education and events. 

Any high school student are eligible to participate in POLGO. Interested students should submit their original works in writing by March 31. Students whose poems are selected for publication will be notified by May 1 and those students will also be invited to participate in a virtual open-microphone competition on May 14 to read their original poems where winners will receive cash prizes for both content and performance.

Original poetry may be on any topic and has a 300 word maximum.


  • March 31, 2021
    Poetry Out Loud Gets Original Submission Deadline

Poetry Out Loud logo

Questions? Contact:

Amberly Nelson at amberly2@usf.edu
Caryn Nesmith at carynn@usf.edu

Poetry is one of the most expressive art forms. Whether recounting a real-life event, providing social commentary, or merely seeking to entertain, poetry requires introspection in order to effectively share with others. USF St. Petersburg campus is proud to be the state organizer this year for Poetry Out Loud state competition.