For Poetry Out Loud Inquiries

Katie Wittenauer
Director of Programs

kwittenauer “at”
or call 517-372-7770

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Poetry Out Loud

What is Poetry Out Loud?

Poetry Out Loud (POL) 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. The program and all materials are provided to each high school at no cost.

Participating high schools host their own competitions and select a student to represent their school at the state finals. Michigan’s POL State Finals will be held on March 13 and 14, 2020. You can read more about the 2018-19 State Finals and current champion, Tajah-Rayne Davise, in the Michigan Humanities news sectionEach year, the state champion advances to the national finals in Washington, D.C. and competes for a $20,000 college scholarship.

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of Michigan Humanities (MH), Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Poetry Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Additional support is generously provided by Meijer and the Liesel Litzenburger Meijer Fund.



How do I participate in Poetry Out Loud?

  • Registration: Online registration for the 2019-20 POL program is now open, and can be completed using these steps:
    • Create a new user account on the Michigan Humanities grant and program portal, located here. If you already have a username and password from the 2018-19 year, please sign in using those details.
    • Next, visit the Poetry Out Loud section in the portal, click “Apply,” and provide the requested information on the registration form.
    • You will receive an automated “registration received” email after you have submitted the form.
    • Michigan Humanities staff will follow up with you via email after reviewing the submitted details, and you will receive more information about implementing the 2019-20 Poetry Out Loud program.
  • Materials: Program resources will be distributed on a rolling basis starting in late August, 2019.
  • Multiple Classrooms: Multiple classrooms are encouraged to participate at each school. Schools must identify a lead teacher, who will complete the application. Submit one application per school.
  • Eligibility: All Michigan high schools are eligible to participate. Home schooled students may participate by competing in a contest at a local school (at the school’s discretion) or with other local home schooled students. Student eligibility is detailed in the teacher’s guide and on the POL website.

Key Dates

Here are some dates and resources to help give you an idea of the POL schedule throughout the school year:

  • Late August 2019: We will begin shipping Teacher Toolkits and welcome folders to registered partners. Copies of the print anthology will be distributed with the Teacher Toolkits.
  • September 1, 2019: The updated POL online anthology will be published for 2019–20 competition reference. Only poems from the print and updated online anthologies are eligible for recitation.
  • September and October, 2019: Orientation webinars will be offered to talk through the program resources, schedule, judging rubric, and any questions you may have.
  • November 21, 2019: Last day to submit an application
  • February 7, 2020: Last day for Student Champion forms to be submitted. Your School Competition will need to take place before this date to submit your student champion information for the State Finals competition.
  • February 21, 2020: Last day for hotel rooms to be reserved at the discounted Michigan Poetry Out Loud State Finals rate.
  • March 13–14, 2020: State Finals competition. Round 1 will take place on Friday, March 13, and Rounds 2 and 3 will take place on Saturday, March 14.
  • April 27–29, 2020: National Finals competition in Washington, D.C., will take place.


At minimum, the state champion receives a $200 cash award, a $500 stipend for his or her school to purchase poetry materials, and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to represent Michigan at the national competition (with a chaperone) from April 27-19, 2020. The first runner-up will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school. Student and school prizes at the state level are funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and additional sponsors; award amounts will be finalized in fall 2019.

School Partner Expectations

  • Incorporate poetry recitation into curriculum (at teacher’s discretion) during fall and winter 2019-20
  • Hold classroom and school competitions to determine school champion
  • Ensure school champion will attend state and national championships (if selected)
  • Provide school champion’s information to MH by deadline
  • Be prepared to report expenses, dates (teaching and competitions), and attendance numbers
  • NOTE: Before reimbursements can be distributed following the statewide competition, school surveys must be sent to MH
  • Full contest rules are available in the POL teacher’s guide. Hard copies are provided to participating teachers and available online.

Lead Teacher Resources

MH Commitment

  • Provide a POL teacher’s guide to each participating teacher
  • Provide a fuel stipend (for students, parent(s), and teachers traveling 100 or more miles round trip) and lodging costs for the student, parent(s), and teacher traveling to the state finals event (reimbursement for one night at the event hotel for up to two rooms per school)
  • Provide State Champion with the Poetry Out Loud traveling trophy, to be kept at their school for one year. She/he will also receive a minimum award of $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete for a $20,000 scholarship at the national competition.
  • Provide poetry programming opportunities and offer POL support via MH and Katie Wittenauer, Director of Programs

Social Media

Get updates, post questions, and share your photos via the MH accounts below and with #MIHumanities, #MIPoetryOutLoud, and #IamPoetryOutLoud.


Michigan Poetry Out Loud Sponsors

Michigan Poetry Out Loud Sponsors