Since 2005, 3.3 million students from across the country have memorized some of the best poetry, sharing their interpretation of the work of poets such as Judith Ortiz Cofer, Walt Whitman, and Kevin Young through a dynamic recitation competition—National Endowment for the Arts’ Poetry Out Loud program. On April 25-26, 2017, 53 students out of 310,000 competitors from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands will come to our nation’s capital to compete in the 2017 Poetry Out Loud national finals, an opportunity to win a grand prize of $20,000 and the title of National Champion.
Poetry Out Loud is a national initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Poetry Foundation and the state arts agencies that encourages high school students to learn more about great poetry, both classic and contemporary, through memorization and performance. For many students, what starts in the classroom as an assignment can turn into a lifelong love of poetry, while also providing the opportunity to further develop analytical, memorization, and public speaking skills that serve them well both in and out of school.
“We know that these 53 students have made it to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals through hard work, talent, and confidence, but also with the support and encouragement of their teachers, peers, families, and states,” said Jane Chu, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Whether it’s a classroom competition or the national finals, it is always a joy to see the students’ enthusiasm for poetry and dedication to expressing the poems’ beauty and meaning to the audience.”
“It’s exciting when a high school student finds a personal connection with a poem committed to memory, whether it was written one year or one hundred years ago,” said Henry Bienen, president of the Poetry Foundation. “The dramatization and recitation of classic and contemporary poems can strike a deep chord proving that poetry is both timeless and timely.”
On Tuesday, April 25, the state champions will compete throughout the day in three semifinal rounds from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University, 730 21st Street NW, Washington, DC. Then, the top nine finalists will advance to the finals competition on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, also at Lisner Auditorium from 7:00 to 9:15 p.m., hosted by poet Elizabeth Acevedo and featuring a performance by cellist, composer, and storyteller Ben Sollee. Judges for the April 26 finals include poet and teacher Marilyn Chin, founder of the Pink Line Project Philippa Hughes, poet and collaborative artist Valerie Martínez, poet and teacher Adrian Matejka, and playwright and former artistic director of Lookingglass Theatre Company Andrew White. Both events are free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required.
Both days of competition will be available through a live, one-time-only webcast at arts.gov. Schools and organizations that wish to organize a viewing party of some or all of the competition can register atarts.gov, where you can also find tips on hosting your party, promotional materials, and details on other viewing parties around the country. Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using #POL17.
The 53 state champions also have the opportunity to compete in the Poetry Ourselves competition by submitting an original work of poetry in one of two categories: either a written poem or a video of a spoken poem. The two winners and runners-up will be selected by poet Naomi Shihab Nye and announced at the April 26 national finals competition.
From the classroom to the stage
Poetry Out Loud begins in the classroom, where teachers use the Poetry Out Loud toolkit to teach poetry recitation and run classroom competitions. Students select, memorize, and recite poems from an anthology of more than 900 classic and contemporary poems. Beginning at the classroom level, winners advance to the school-wide competition, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, DC. A total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends to purchase poetry materials will be awarded to the top nine finalists and their schools at the national finals. More than $50,000 in cash and school stipends were awarded at state final competitions. The Poetry Out Loud national finals are administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. More information about the program and how to participate is at poetryoutloud.org.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA 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 NEA 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. Visit arts.gov to learn more about NEA.
About Poetry Foundation
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our 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 partnerships, prizes, and programs. For more information, visit poetryfoundation.org.
About Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation develops partnerships and programs that reinforce artists’ capacity to create and present work and advance access to and participation in the arts. The Foundation was created in 1979 and is a private non-profit organization that is closely allied with the region’s state arts councils and the National Endowment for the Arts. It combines funding from state and federal resources with private support from corporations, foundations, and individuals to address needs in the arts from a regional, national, and international perspective. For more information, please visitwww.midatlanticarts.org.