The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation partner with state arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, a competition that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through analysis, memorization, and recitation.  The program helps teens master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.
The National Endowment for the Arts recently issued these statistics to mark Poetry Out Loud’s growth over the twelve years of the program: Since 2005, almost 2.5 million students, 7,300 schools, and 45,000 teachers have participated in Poetry Out Loud nationwide.  In addition, more than $920,000 dollars in prizes and school stipends have been awarded.  Including judges and staff and audiences, there have been more than 4.7 million participants over the program’s twelve-year history!

Read 2018-19 National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chair Mary Anne Carter letter here

A video of this year’s Illinois state contest, produced by UMedia.

    • The Illinois Arts Council Agency works with these regional partners to produce Poetry Out Loud in Illinois:
    • Central: Springfield Area Arts Council
    • Chicago and Suburbs: The Poetry Center of Chicago
    • Eastern: 40 North/88 West
    • Northern: Rockford Area Arts Council
    • Southwestern: Southwest Illinois College
    • Southern: Carbondale Community Arts
    • Western: Quad City Arts

Schedule for the 2019 contests

Central Illinois Regional Contest: 4:00PM, Wednesday, February 13, 2019,  Hoogland Center for the Arts, Springfield, IL

Illinois State Contest: 10:00AM, Friday, March 8, 2019, Hoogland Center for the Arts, Springfield, IL

National Competition: April 29 – May 1, 2019, Lisner Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

For more information, please visit or call 217-753-3519, or you may email Central Illinois regional coordinator Sheila Walk at

2018 State Poetry Out Loud Contest Winners Announced

2018 Illinois Champion Wynton Gage, Southeast High School, Springfield.  To win the competition, Gage recited “Four Glimpses of Night” by Frank Marshall Davis, “The Universe as Primal Scream” by Tracy K. Smith, and “Often rebuked, yet always back returning” by Emily Brontë.  He  advances to the national contest in Washington, D.C., April where he will compete against students representing fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.  Photograph by William Richards.

Illinois Runner-up Maeve Heumann, Edwardsville High School, Edwardsville.

Mr. Gage was commended for his achievements with a proclamation by the Springfield City Council and Mayor Jim Langfelder. He recited his winning poem for the council at the ceremony on April 17th, 2018.

2018 Central Illinois Regional Contest Winners

Above Left   2018 Poetry Out Loud Central Illinois Regional Contest winner Wynton Gage, Southeast High School Springfield.

Above Right  2018 Poetry Out Loud Central Illinois Regional Contest runner-up, Cole White, Pawnee High School Pawnee.
Photographs by William Richards

In the Central Illinois Regional Contest held February 21, Elizaveta Fehr, a student at Eureka High School, was named as the alternate.  Thirteen students competed at the regional level.  Represented in the contest were the following high Schools: Eisenhower (Decatur), Eureka, Franklin, Lanphier (Springfield), Lutheran (Springfield), Nokomis, Pawnee, Quest Charter (Peoria), Rochester, Sacred Heart-Griffin (Springfield), Springfield, Southeast (Springfield), and Virginia.

Wynton and Cole advance to represent Central Illinois in the Illinois State Competition .  The eight regions in the state are: Alton, Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago-City, Chicago-Suburbs, Rockford, Rock Island, and Springfield.

In Illinois, over  8,870 students, 166 teachers, and 43 high schools participated in Poetry Out Loud in 2018.  Since the program began in 2005, more than 3.3 million students, 50,000 teachers, and 12,000 schools across the country have participated in Poetry Out Loud.

Partner Organizations