Poetry Out Loud2021-03-03T09:55:46-05:00

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.

Highlights from the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Finals

Rahele Megosha from South Dakota Named 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion

2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion Rahele Megosha. Screenshot by James Kegley from Poetry Out Loud national finals video submission

2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion Rahele Megosha. Screenshot by James Kegley from Poetry Out Loud national finals video submission

Washington, DC—Following recitations of poetry by Linda Pastan, Jehanne Dubrow, and Mary Lamb, Rahele Megosha, a senior at Washington High School in South Dakota, was announced as the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion during last night’s national finals webcast at arts.gov. Megosha will receive a prize of $20,000.

The second-place winner is Kendall Grimes, a junior at Battle Ground Academy in Tennessee, who receives a $10,000 prize. The third-place winner is Soojin Park, a senior at Auburn High School in Alabama, who receives a $5,000 prize. The remaining six students who competed in the finals will each receive a $1,000 prize. The schools of each of the top nine finalists will receive $500 to purchase poetry materials.

This is the 16th year that the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation have partnered with the state and jurisdictional arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, a program that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry—both classic and contemporary—through memorization and recitation. 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.

In a short video about the impact of Poetry Out Loud, Megosha said: “Being able to get to know these different poets and their different poems, it really helps me understand the multitude of perspectives that exist in this world and I think that’s a really beautiful thing.”

Last night’s national finals were the culmination of the 2020-2021 Poetry Out Loud program, with thousands of students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa participating during this school year. Both the national semifinals and finals took place virtually in 2021, with state and jurisdictional champions submitting pre-recorded videos that were reviewed and scored by judges based on criteria including physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, overall performance, and accuracy. Read more about all 55 state and jurisdictional champions in the national finals program book.

The National Endowment for the Arts also recently announced the 2021 winners of the Poetry Ourselves, a second competition open to the Poetry Out Loud state and jurisdictional champions to highlight their original poetry. Read about the winners of that competition on the NEA’s website.