Ahkei Togun, 2016 National Champion
James Kegley, Photographer

 “Poetry Out Loud is a really wonderful way for students to explore the magic of poetry. They learn about performance, meaning, nuance, and so many other things.  I believe that students who participate in Poetry Out Loud are more eloquent speakers and more perceptive readers.”  (Norfolk area teacher)


  • All public, private, charter and homeschool students are eligible to participate in the regional and state competitions.
  • School or homeschool group must register by Friday, November 8, 2019.
  • All registered schools must have a school coordinator to organize and run the school competition.
  • To participate in official regional and state competitions, schools must hold a school wide competition with a minimum of two (2) students students competing.  
  • Any school at any grade level may use the online Poetry Out Loud resources to run an unofficial competition. 
  • Students competing in unofficial contests will not be eligible for state or national awards. This is an excellent way to prepare younger grades for the official competition.


  • Students must be in grades 9 -12, with an exception made for 8th-grade students who are in a participating 9th-grade class.
  • Students must participate in a school or organizational competition before progressing to the Poetry Out Loud regional or state finals.
  • Home-schooled students may participate.
  • School-level competitions must include two (2) or more students.


In 2016, Tallwood High School senior, Ahkei Togun of Virginia Beach won the National Poetry Out Loud Competition.  Ahkei is the second National Poetry Out Loud Champion from Virginia. William Farley of Arlington won the competition in 2009. 

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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