Welcome to Poetry Out Loud!

POL Champ
Ahkei Togun, Tallwood High School
James Kegley, Photographer

Poetry Out Loud is a free program for students in grades 9 through 12 that builds public speaking skills and self-confidence.  Dr. David Kidd of Norfolk Academy stated, “Poetry Out Loud is such a great program because it really forces students to read deeply into poetry and to think about how every syllable can be shot through with meaning."  The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with the Virginia Commission for the Arts to present Poetry Out Loud.

Tallwood High School senior, Ahkei Togun of Virginia Beach won the National Poetry Out Loud Competition in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.  Ahkei prevailed in the third round with his captivating recitation of “Bereavement” by William Lisle Bowles.  Ahkei is the second National Poetry Out Loud Champion from the Commonwealth.  William Farley of Arlington won the competition in 2009.  The Virginia Commission for the Arts congratulates Ahkei and his teacher Jenna Free on this prestigious achievement.

POL Champ2Ellie O’Reilly, Thomas Jefferson High School
Don Mears, Photographer

About the Program

Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure beginning at the high school classroom level where teachers implement a two-to-three week curriculum using free, standards-based materials including print and online poetry anthologies containing more than 600 classical and contemporary poems. Poetry Out Loud does not require full class periods and can also be structured as an afterschool program.  Classroom studies culminate with a classroom contest with winners advancing to school level, regional and then possibly the Virginia Finals.


Each winner at the state level receives a $200 and an all-expenses paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington to compete for the national championship. The state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up receives $100 with $200 for his/her school library.


For any questions related to participation in the official Poetry Out Loud Program contact:
Casey Polczynski
Arts in Education Coordinator
Virginia Commission for the Arts

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