In 2010, nearly 325,000 high school students nationwide participated in Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest.  More than 10,000 of those students were from Arizona high schools.  Over the past five years, Arizona Poetry Out Loud has been growing steadily as more and more teachers find surprising success making poetry matter for students.  Registration for the 2010-2011 season of Poetry Out Loud opens today and I would like to take a moment to share a little about the program.

If you are not familiar, Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national recitation competition for high school students that provides free classroom materials for teachers and scholarship opportunities for students.  Designed to capitalize on the latest trends in poetry – recitation and performance – POL fits easily into the English, Theatre or Forensics/Speech and Debate class.  The curriculum satisfies most NCTE English Language Arts Standards, and the program takes place over the span of just two to three weeks, according to each teacher’s interest and agenda.  Each participating teacher receives a free toolkit, which includes a program guide to help teach recitation and performance, a guide to holding their school contest, an audio guide and print anthologies for students to select their poems.

Using a pyramid structure, this “poetry bee” begins with classroom and school level contests.  Winners advance to the Regional Finals, then the State Finals where students compete for the title of Arizona State Champion and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., (with an adult chaperone) to compete at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals and the chance to win a $20,000 college scholarship.  Each winner at the state level receives $200 and the state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books.  One runner-up in each state receives $100; his or her school receives $200 for the purchase of poetry books.

Free classroom materials, cash and scholarship prizes, state and national competitions; these components make POL a great program, but the teachers and students who participate are what make it extraordinary.  The real magic of Poetry Out Loud is the shared experience it creates across classrooms, schools, cities and states, and the life long love of poetry it instills in our nation’s youth.  As Erik Hollis, the 2008 and 2009 Arizona Poetry Out Loud State Champion said, “The top three things I took away from competing in Poetry Out Loud were never set limits for myself regarding goals that I am passionate about; a greater love of poetry and being exposed to so many different writers; an experience that I will remember for a lifetime.”

For more information about Poetry Out Loud, visit or

Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation.  Arizona Poetry Out Loud is a program of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, administered in collaboration with its regional partners, Arizona State University’s Young Writers Program and the University of Arizona Poetry Center.

To participate in the 2010-2011 season of Poetry Out Loud, register your school here.  Online registration is available August 16 – October 15, 2010.