Get Lit! Poetry Out Loud

In 2006, Poetry Out Loud became a national program in which high school students combine memorization and recitation with performance. As the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of hip-hop music suggest, recitation and performance are current trends in the poetry world. Poetry Out Loud builds on the recent resurgence of poetry as an oral art form. By combining the spoken word, the dynamic nature of slam poetry, and elements of theater, the program brings a vital, participatory approach to poetry into the English class. Poetry Out Loud competitions teach students to appreciate poetry of all types and encourage them to incorporate great poetry into their lives. By taking part in the competitions, whether at the school, regional, state, or national level, students also gain public speaking skills and learn to develop their own poetic voice.

The competition works like the National Spelling Bee. Each student selects two poems to memorize from among the five hundred selections available in the Poetry Out Loud online anthology. The poems have been carefully chosen to represent a diverse array of authors, eras, styles, and tones. Students compete first at the classroom and then at the school level. Schools select two candidates to send to the regional finals, the winner of which moves on to the state competition in Tacoma. The state winner receives a $200 prize and an expense-paid trip to Washington DC, where the national finals take place. The national finalist is awarded a $20,000 scholarship. Second- and third-place winners receive $10,000 and $5,000 scholarships, respectively. Last year, over 200,000 students participated in the program.

Benefits for Students

  • They discover a new, dynamic approach to poetry

  • They develop an intimate connection with both classic and modern literature

  • They learn to interpret the emotions of a poem by giving it a close reading

  • They engage in active learning by memorizing a poem through the use of "body memory" and gestures

  • They acquire public speaking skills

  • They see the language arts highlighted on the national stage

Registration and materials are free to all participating high schools. State and national winners earn a stipend that enables their school library to purchase books.

Visit for more information, including teaching guides. If you are interested in participating, contact Get Lit!, Poetry Out Loud coordinator for the Inland Northwest, at or at 509.358.6977.

Poetry Out Loud is sponsored nationally by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and is administered statewide by the Washington State Arts Commission. Locally, Get Lit! Programs host the regional competition for all schools in ESD 101.

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