(WASHINGTON, DC) -- For the first time in the program’s 16-year history, the Poetry Out Loud(TM) national semifinals and finals will be held virtually this May. Each year, high school students nationwide experience Poetry Out Loud, memorizing and reciting classic and contemporary poetry and participating in local, regional, and state competitions. From the thousands of students who competed in 2020-2021, 55 finalists—one from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa—will advance to compete in the Poetry Out Loud national finals. Lilian Myers, a 12th grade student from Cinnaminson High School in Cinnaminson, will represent New Jersey at the national finals.
The virtual finals will culminate in the announcement of the 2021 national champion, who will receive a grand prize of $20,000. Visit poetryoutloud.org for the list of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud state and jurisdictional champions and their high schools.
Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and the state and jurisdictional arts agencies. This national program encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students, helping them to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life. The 2021 finalists come from a diverse range of communities around the United States, including for the first time Guam and American Samoa.
“We know this has been a challenging year for students and we hope Poetry Out Loud has provided them with an opportunity to find joy, comfort, or explore new ideas in a poem,” said Ann Eilers, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “We encourage audiences to tune in to the national finals to celebrate the hard work and incredible accomplishments of these students and cheer on their state champions.”
On Sunday, May 2, 2021 beginning at 12:00pm ET, the Poetry Out Loud national semifinals will be broadcast through a one-time-only webcast at arts.gov/poetry-out-loud. Each of the 55 champions submit in advance video recordings of their poetry recitations, which will be reviewed and scored by judges with expertise in poetry, performance, and the literary arts. The recitations from all 55 students will be broadcast on May 2 as part of one of three regional semifinals, and will include the announcement of the top nine students (three from each region) who will advance in the competition. Visit arts.gov/poetry-out-loud for the full semifinals schedule.
On Thursday, May 27 at 7:00pm ET, actor and writer Shaun Taylor-Corbett will host the 2021 Poetry Out Loud national finals. Webcast at arts.gov/poetry-out-loud, the evening will feature pre-recorded recitations, live interviews with the top nine finalists, and the live announcement of the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion. The national finals judges will include Cathy Linh Che, Eduardo C. Corral, Gabriel Cortez, Idris Goodwin, Elisa New, and Branden Wellington.
“We are so grateful to our partners across the country for making Poetry Out Loud possible in this evolving reality,” said Poetry Foundation program manager Justine Haka. “The students themselves have been an inspiration, joining this program because they are open to the power of poetry and what it can do to connect us while we are apart.”
A total of $50,000 in awards and school or organizational stipends will be awarded at the national finals, including $20,000 for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion, and $10,000 and $5,000 for the second- and third-place finalists. The Poetry Foundation provides and administers all aspects of the monetary prizes awarded for Poetry Out Loud. The Poetry Out Loud national finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Closed captioning and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation will be provided for both the Poetry Out Loud national semifinals and finals.
The Poetry Out Loud state champions also had the opportunity to highlight their own original poetry by competing in the Poetry Ourselves competition. State champions were able to submit an original work of poetry in one of two categories: either a written poem or a video of a spoken poem. The winner and runner-up in each category will be selected by poet Eve L. Ewing and announced in May.
Poetry Out Loud starts at the classroom/school or at the local level with an area organization. Students memorize and recite poems they select from an anthology of more than 1,100 classic and contemporary poems. Winners then may advance to a regional and/or state competition, and ultimately to the national finals. Since the program began in 2005, more than 4.1 million students and 68,000 teachers from 17,000 schools and organizations across the nation have participated in Poetry Out Loud.
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America.
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in American culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs.
Mid Atlantic Arts was established in 1979 to promote and support multi-state arts programming in a region that includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia. It is one of six regional arts organizations in the United States, and works in close partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and its member state and jurisdictional arts agencies. Mid Atlantic Arts distinguishes itself through its work in international cultural exchange, model programs in performing arts touring, its knowledge and presence in the jazz field, and its support of folk and traditional arts.