Our Stories, Our Lives

Poetry Out Loud

DSC_2381What is Poetry Out Loud?

Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation competition for high school students. By encouraging youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance, students can master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

Participating high schools host their own competitions and select a student to represent their school at the state finals.  The state champion will advance to the national finals in Washington, D.C. and compete for a $20,000 college scholarship. School champions will be invited to participate in the Michigan Youth Arts Festival, a three-day event featuring the finest artistic talent in Michigan high schools. Nearly 80,000 students from more than 50 Michigan high schools have participated in Poetry Out Loud programs since 2005.

2016-17 Schedule (subject to revision):

  • September 2016 to January 2017: Schools incorporate Poetry Out Loud into curriculum, hold school competitions.
  • November 30, 2016 Application deadline for interested schools.
  • January 27, 2017: Deadline to submit winning student.
  • March 2-3, 2017: State Finals at the Lansing Center, Lansing, MI
  • April 24-26, 2017: National Finals, Washington, D.C.
  • May 2017: Michigan Youth Arts Festival, Kalamazoo.

Application and Teacher Resources

Lyndon DeFoe of University High School Academy in Southfield. Photo credit: Dave Trumpie

2016 State Competition Results

Lyndon DeFoe of University High School Academy in Southfield, was named the 2016 Michigan Poetry Out Loud State Champion after a day-long recitation competition at The Library of Michigan/Michigan Historical Center in Lansing on March 4.

DeFoe took top honors among 33 student competitors, reciting “The Bones of My Father” by Etheridge Knight in his final round. First runner-up was Mary Kate Wright of Owosso High School (Owosso), second runner-up was Sasha McCullom of Paul K. Cousino Senior High School in Warren, and third runner-up was Jacob Russell of Hartland High School.

“The Michigan Humanities Council was proud to see the students and their wonderful talent today,” said Shelly Kasprzycki, Executive Director.  “Young people are the hope for the future of Humanities and we look forward to watching Lyndon represent Michigan at the National Competition in May. We are so proud of each one of the students that have taken part of Poetry Out Loud this year.”

Photo Credit: Dave Trumpie

As the state champion, DeFoe received a $200 cash award, $500 stipend for his school and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to represent Michigan at the National Poetry Out Loud competition in May 2016. The national competition will be live-streamed at www.poetryoutloud.org. Wright, as runner-up, received a $100 cash award and $200 for her school. All four state finalists will receive plaques commemorating their achievement. The national champion will receive a $20,000 college scholarship.

Poetry Out Loud, a national high school recitation competition, encourages youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance, while also mastering public speaking skills, building self-confidence and learning about literary heritage. The program has engaged more than 70,000 students since the Michigan Humanities Council and Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs began hosting it in 2005.The program is open to all high schools, including home-school groups. Registration for the next program will open this fall. If teachers or parents would like to learn more about this program, please visit www.michiganhumanities.org.


  • Incorporate poetry recitation into curriculum (at teacher’s discretion) – Fall 2016
  • Hold school/classroom competition to determine school champion
  • Ensure school champion will attend regional, state and national championships (if selected)
  • Provide school champion’s information to MHC by deadline – January 27, 2017
  • Be prepared to list event dates (classroom discussions and school competition) with attendance numbers
  • Before reimbursements can be distributed following the statewide competition, school surveys must be sent to MHC
  • Full contest rules available in teacher’s guide; hard copies provided to participating teachers

MHC Commitment:

  • Provide a free teacher’s guide to each participating teacher
  • Reimbursement of travel and hotel accommodations for the student, parent and teacher to state finals
  • Each student competing at the State finals will receive a certificate signed by the governor
  • State winner will keep the Poetry Out Loud trophy at their home school for one year. He/she will also receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete for a $20,000 scholarship at the national competition
  • State winner’s school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books
  • Guidance and support from MHC program officer


The state winner will receive $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete for the national championship. The state winner’s school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The runner-up in the state competition will receive $100, along with $200 for his or her school library. Scholarships and school stipends totaling $50,000 will be awarded at the national finals, with a $20,000 college scholarship for the Poetry Out Loud national champion.

Michigan Poetry Out Loud Champions

  • 2016 Champion: Lyndon DeFoe, University high School Academy, Southfield
  • 2015 Champion: Coral Brantly, Petoskey High School
  • 2014 Champion: Matthew Webb, Cass Technical High School, Detroit
  • 2013 Champion: Richard Wu, Forest Hills Central High School, Grand Rapids
  • 2012 Champion: Randi Laundre, Alba High School, Alba
  • 2011 Champion: Harron Atkins, Cass Technical High School, Detroit
  • 2010 Champion: Lauren Treiber, Forest Hills Central High School, Grand Rapids
  • 2009 Champion: Daniel Bellomy, Cass Technical High School, Detroit
  • 2008 Champion: Charles White, Forest Hills Central High School, Grand Rapids
  • 2007 Champion: Sarah Harris, Holt High School
  • 2006 Champion: Travis Walter, Holt High School

For more information on the national Poetry Out Loud program, visit www.poetryoutloud.org or www.nea.gov.

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of Michigan Humanities Council, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts, The Poetry Foundation, and Michigan Youth Arts.






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