Poetry Out Loud2021-03-03T09:55:46-06:00

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 2021 season marks the 16th anniversary of Poetry Out Loud. Since its inception, the program has reached more than 3.8 million high school students and 60,000 teachers from 16,000 schools in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In Illinois 2021 : 3079 students and 84 teachers from 26 schools participated.

Illinois Poetry Out Loud 2020 from UMEDIA on Vimeo.

The Illinois Arts Council Agency works with these regional partners to produce Poetry Out Loud in Illinois:

      • Southern: Carbondale Community Arts
        Southwestern: Southwestern Illinois College
        Northern: Rockford Area Arts Council
        Eastern: 40 North/88 West
        Chicago and Suburbs: The Poetry Center of Chicago
        Central: Springfield Area Arts Council
        Western: Quad City Arts

For more information, please visit www.poetryoutloud.org or call 217-753-3519, or you may email Central Illinois regional coordinator Sheila Walk at programs@springfieldartsco.org.

SAAC Executive Director Sheila Walk talks Poetry Out Loud

Sheila Walk, executive director of the Springfield Area Arts Council, recently sat down with WMAY’s Kevin Hart to discuss this year’s Poetry Out Loud Season.

Video and podcast versions of the interview are available below.


Lo! ’t is a gala night

   Within the lonesome latter years!  

An angel throng, bewinged, bedight

   In veils, and drowned in tears,  

Sit in a theatre, to see

   A play of hopes and fears,

While the orchestra breathes fitfully  

   The music of the spheres.

-from “The Conqueror Worm” by Edgar Allan Poe


These words, recited by Ryan Horstman of Springfield’s Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, earned him third place in the Central Illinois Poetry Out Loud Contest held this month.

Thaddeus Bergschneider and Madden Delaney of Franklin High School were the top two finishers in the competition.  They will advance to the Illinois State Finals in March.  Due to the pandemic, all competitions are held virtually.

The Illinois State Contest will feature recitations by two students from each of eight Poetry Out Loud regions in the state.  The Illinois State champion will advance to the national contest.

260 students and 10 teachers in 5 schools began the 2021 Poetry Out Loud season in central Illinois last fall.

Other contestants in the Central Illinois Regional Contest were

Elisabeth Anderson and Maddy Graham, Eureka High School (Eureka)

Makenna Gill and Bethany Wagner, Morton High School (Morton)

Grace Lambert, Sacred Heart-Griffin High School (Springfield)

Alysa Samaniego, Springfield High School (Springfield)

Contest staff for the Central Illinois Regional Contest included

Recitation judges:  Randy Brooks, Carol Davis, and Juliann Quigg

Accuracy judge:  Thèa Chesley

Scorekeeper:  Bob Jessup

Technician:  David Cain

Poetry Out Loud in Illinois is a collaborative project of the Illinois Arts Council Agency and seven agencies, each of which hosts a regional contest.  The Poetry Out Loud:  National Recitation Contest is a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through analysis, memorization, performance, and competition.  The National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation, in conjunction with state arts agencies, support this nation-wide program with participants from all fifty states plus Guam, Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

More information is available at www.poetryoutloud.org.