Poetry Out Loud is a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering free educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition for high school students across the country. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life.  Get involved today!

Schools begin to register for Poetry Out Loud every fall at the beginning of the academic year. Poetry Out Loud competitions start in individual high schools or with local organizations such as libraries and other nonprofits. The winners of one tier of competition advance to the next, ending at the national finals. The national Poetry Out Loud program awards each state champion $200, and their school or local organization $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. The runner-up receives $100 and their school or organization $200.


Check out these resources to learn more about how the program works and the benefits it brings to students and schools.

  • Missouri Arts Council state program

  • Poetry Out Loud national program

  • National Endowment for the Arts pages about Poetry Out Loud

  • Poetry Foundation

  • Get Involved in Poetry Out Loud! video – Hear from students and teachers about why they love the program in this five-minute video. Missouri is prominently featured. There are comments from Thomas Fields, 2014 Missouri State Champion and one of only nine finalists in the 2014 nationals. There are also comments from Charles Hussung, teacher at St. Louis University High School at which Thomas was a senior, and from Virginia Sanders of the Missouri Arts Council, our Missouri Poetry Out Loud coordinator.

  • Letter from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to school superintendents describing the 2020 program and how Poetry Out Loud benefits schools

  • Article by the National Association of State Arts Agencies lauding the program’s life-changing “power of poetry and partnership”

Contact Virginia Sanders, Missouri Arts Council special initiatives coordinator, at (314) 340-6851 or virginia.sanders@ltgov.mo.gov.