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.

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. Since 2005, nearly 90,000 students from more than 50 Michigan high schools have participated in POL.

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of Michigan Humanities Council (MHC), 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).

How do I participate in Poetry Out Loud?

  • Registration: To take part in the 2018-19 POL program, interested schools must complete and submit the online registration form or PDF version by December 7, 2018. Poetry Out Loud is a free program.

– Applications can be submitted online, sent to Program Officer Katie Wittenauer via email, or mailed to:

Attention: Katie Wittenauer
Michigan Humanities Council
119 Pere Marquette Dr., Suite 3B
Lansing, MI 48912

– Please direct all eligibility and program questions to Katie Wittenauer via phone (517-372-7770) or email.

  • Notification: Schools will receive official notification within one week of completing the registration process. Program resources will be distributed on a rolling basis.
  • 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. Homeschooled students may participate by competing in a contest at a local school (at the school’s discretion) or with other local homeschooled students. Student eligibility is detailed in the teacher’s guide and on the POL website.

Lead Teacher Resources

2018-19 Schedule (subject to revision)

  • September 2018-January 2019: Schools incorporate Poetry Out Loud into curriculum and hold classroom and school competitions
  • December 7, 2018: Application deadline for schools
  • February 1, 2019: Deadline to submit name of school champion to MHC
  • March 1-2, 2019: Michigan Poetry Out Loud State Finals, Crowne Plaza Lansing: Round 1 of competition will begin on the afternoon of Friday, March 1. Rounds 2 & 3 will be held on the morning of Saturday, March 2. State Finals will conclude by noon on March 2
  • April 29-May 1, 2019: Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington, D.C.


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 29-May 1, 2019. 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 2018.

School Partner Expectations

  • Incorporate poetry recitation into curriculum (at teacher’s discretion) during fall and winter 2018-19
  • 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 MHC by deadline of February 1, 2019
  • 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 MHC
  • Full contest rules are available in the POL teacher’s guide. Hard copies are provided to participating teachers and available online.

MHC 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 MHC and Program Officer Katie Wittenauer

Social Media

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

Michigan Poetry Out Loud Sponsors