Upcoming Poetry Out Loud Events

For Poetry Out Loud Inquiries

Katie Wittenauer
Director of Programs

kwittenauer “at” mihumanities.org
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. Each year, the state champion advances to the national finals in Washington, D.C. and competes for a $20,000 college scholarship. In order to ensure the safety and health of participating students and staff, the 2021 POL National Finals will be held virtually in lieu of holding them on-site in Washington D.C. as previously planned.

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 2020-21 POL program opened on August 10, 2020. To register, begin by setting up a username and password here, or log in with your existing username and password.
  • Materials: Program resources will be distributed on a rolling basis beginning in early fall, 2020.
  • 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.

Lead Teacher Resources

Key Dates

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

  • August 10, 2020: Online registration opens via Michigan Humanities’ grant and program portal.
  • Late September, 2020: We will begin shipping Teacher Toolkits and welcome folders to registered partners.
  • September 1, 2020: The updated POL online anthology will be published for 2020–21 competition reference. Only poems from the print and updated online anthologies are eligible for recitation.
  • October and November, 2020: Orientation and other informational webinars will be offered to talk through the program resources, schedule, virtual adaptations, judging rubric, and any questions teachers and students may have.
  • December 18, 2020: Last day to submit an application.
  • February 12, 2021: School champion forms due
  • March, 2021: Virtual State Finals for Michigan Poetry Out Loud. Date and times to be announced in fall, 2020.
  • Spring, 2021 : Virtual National Finals competition. Date and times to be announced as soon as possible.


Michigan’s state champion receives a $1200 cash award, $1500 stipend for their school, and an opportunity to represent Michigan at the national competition. At the state level, the first runner-up will receive $600, with $700 for their school. The second runner-up will receive $200, with $200 for their school. The third runner-up will receive $100, with $100 for their school. Student and school prizes at the state level are funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Liesel Litzenburger Meijer Fund.

School Partner Expectations

  • Incorporate poetry recitation into curriculum (at teacher’s discretion) during fall and winter 2020-21
  • Hold classroom and school competitions — virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid format — 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 participation 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.

MH Commitment

  • Provide a POL teacher’s guide to each participating teacher
  • If an in-person State Finals event is held, 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.

2019-20 State Finals:

The 2020 Poetry Out Loud State Finals were scheduled for March 13 and 14 at the Crowne Plaza Lansing West (925 S. Creyts Rd., Lansing 48917), but have been moved to a virtual platform in light of COVID-19 impacts in Michigan. In April, students and teachers attended online workshops with Michigan poets and teachers. Students submitted recorded recitations, took part in an essay contest, and contributed to a video compilation. Thank you to the Michigan Poetry Out Loud community of students, teachers, students’ family members, judges, emcees, program partners, and sponsors for your dedication to the continuation of Poetry Out Loud. The 2020 Poetry Out Loud National Finals were cancelled. You can read more here, via the National POL website.

We are continuing to celebrate the achievements and hard work of this year’s participating students and teachers, including each school champion (listed here in this year’s State Finals press release) and the winners of this year’s essay, video recitation, and artwork contests.


For our inaugural Poetry Out Loud essay contest, students reflected on the following questions: How has participating in the Poetry Out Loud program personally impacted you, your relationship to poetry, and your understanding of the poems you selected? This year’s winners are:
First Place ($1,000): Roxy Sprowl, Grade 12 at Marquette Senior High School
Teachers: Tanya Sprowl & Eric Hammerstrom
Second Place ($500): Xavier Hernandez, Grade 12 at Melvindale High School
Teacher: Michelle Meschke
Third Place ($200): Soja Kureekkattil, Grade 11 at Rochester High School
Teacher: Ashley Painter
Fourth Place ($100): Mahbuba Sumiya, Grade 11 at Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine
Teacher: Shannon Waite

Video recitations

These four students had the highest total scores after judges reviewed and scored their three video recitations. This year’s winners, presented in alphabetical order, are:
Elizabeth Ajaero, Grade 12 at University High School Academy
Teacher: Torrie Maas
Adeline Frazier, Grade 9 at Houghton High School
Teacher: Julie Antilla
Soja Kureekkattil, Grade 11 at Rochester High School
Teacher: Ashley Painter
Lizzy Shetler, Grade 11 at Traverse Bay Area Career-Tech Center
Teacher: Teresa Scollon

POL art contest winner



In spring, 2020, all Poetry Out Loud students were invited to share artwork that represented the power of poetry and how it speaks to them. This year’s winner and creator of the beautiful artwork displayed here is:
Annie Vokes, Grade 12 at Yale High School
Teachers: Alissa Nicol (Art) and Maria Gerardy (ELA)

Michigan Poetry Out Loud Sponsors

Michigan Poetry Out Loud Sponsors