Teachers: Time to Register for Poetry Out Loud

Courtney Stewart,, Massachusetts state champion

Courtney Stewart,, Massachusetts state champion

Last year 20,900 students from 83 Massachusetts high schools participated in the 9th annual Poetry Out Loud competition. Poetry Out Loud is a national recitation contest created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

And last year Massachusetts had the third highest representation of any state in the union, slightly behind California and Washington. The state-wide program is run by the Huntington Theatre Company.

Now teachers can register to participate in the program. Here are the rules for participation:


Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure that begins at the classroom level.  Winners advance to the school-wide competition, then to the state semi-finals and finals, and one student is ultimately chosen to represent Massachusetts at the national finals in Washington, DC.

  1. Your school winner becomes a state semi-finalist and will compete at one of 4 semi-final locations.  Teachers will receive instructions for the semi-finals in early February 2014.
  2. Contestants recite their poems at the state and national levels in rounds, rather than consecutively.  Each student representing his or her school must have chosen and memorized three poems for the state semi-final and final competitions.
  3. At the semi-finals, every student performs two poems.  23 semi-finalists will move on to become state finalists.
  4. Those 23 students begin the finals in Boston performing the same two poems used at the semi-finals in the same order.  From the 23 finalists, the top six perform a third poem.  It is imperative that the third poem be “performance ready” because there will only be 25-30 minutes between the announcement of the top 6 and when those students will actually take the state to recite their third poems.

Reminders for poem selection:  At the competition, each student must recite at least one poem written before the 20th century.  Students’ selections must also include one poem that is 25 lines or shorter.  BUT one poem CAN satisfy both requirements.  Visit the national Poetry Out Loud website, www.poetryoutloud.org, where you will find lists of poems that meet each requirement.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  The deadline to submit the name of your school winner is Friday, January 31, 2014.  This is a full two-weeks earlier than in years past.  Please mark this date on your calendars now and be sure to hold your school competition in advance of this date. Register now!