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Poetry Out Loud

Missouri Regional Competitions Begin January 16

The Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest for high school students encourages the nation's youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure that starts at the classroom level. Winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to a regional competition, then to a state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals. The Missouri State Finals will take place in Jefferson City on March 10, 2016. The National Finals will take place in Washington, D.C. on May 2-4.

Regional competitions in Missouri take place from January 16 to February 17:

January 16 – 1 p.m.
Cape Girardeau Public Library

St. Louis City
February 1 – 1:30 p.m.
Springboard, St. Louis

St. Charles County
February 2 – 11 a.m.
Foundry Art Centre, St. Charles

St. Louis County
February 2 – 6:30 p.m.
Florissant Civic Center Theatre

February 3 – 4 p.m.
Troester Media Center, St. Joseph

February 9 – 10 a.m.
Hannibal Arts Council

February 9 – 4 p.m.
Creamery Arts Center, Springfield

Kansas City South
February 13 – 1 p.m.
The Writers Place, Kansas City

Kansas City North
February 16 – 7 p.m.
McCoy Meeting House, Park University, Parkville

February 17 – 10 a.m.
Columbia Public Library


New in 2016: Poetry Ourselves competition for state champions

The 2016 Poetry Out Loud program has a new element: a competition for original poetry created by the state finalists. On September 30, National Endowment for the Arts Chair Jane Chu announced Poetry Ourselves to complement the NEA’s 50th anniversary. Participation is entirely optional, but state champions will be encouraged to submit a poem for consideration. Winners will be eligible for prizes and will be recognized at the National Finals. Details on the submission guidelines, deadlines, judging process, and other aspects are still to be announced.


2017 Program

Think your school might want to participate in the next competition? Check these resources to learn more.

  • Poetry Is Alive and Well in Missouri – “You can pick poems you can relate to and put your own spin on it” – interview in StreetScape Magazine May/June 2015 (pages 70-71) with 2015 Missouri State Champion Maya Bryant and other 2015 Missouri participants
  • Get Involved in Poetry Out Loud! video – Learn why students and teachers love the program in this five-minute video. Missouri is prominently featured, with comments from Thomas Fields, 2014 Missouri State Champion and one of only nine finalists in the 2014 nationals; Charles Hussung, teacher at St. Louis University High School, at which Thomas was a senior; and Virginia Sanders of the Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Poetry Out Loud coordinator.
  • A letter from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education designed to inform your superintendent about how the program benefits the school
  • A 2012 article courtesy of the National Association of State Arts Agencies by their longterm executive director at that time, Jonathan Katz, lauding the program’s life-changing benefits for students and “the power of poetry and partnership”
  • General information about the national Poetry Out Loud competition, including lists of poems eligible for use

For more information, contact Virginia Sanders, Missouri Poetry Out Loud coordinator, at 314-340-6851 or virginia.sanders@ded.mo.gov.

The Missouri Arts Council and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have partnered to bring Poetry Out Loud to Missouri. The contest was created in 2006 by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, and is administered in partnership with the state arts agencies of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.


Congratulations to Maya Bryant, Missouri's 2015 State Champion.

At the Missouri State Finals in Jefferson City on March 12, Maya Bryant (pictured with First Lady Georganne Nixon), a senior at Holt High School in Wentzville, rose to the top from among her fellow regional winners as the state champion. Ms. Bryant went on to the national finals in Washington, D.C. on April 28-29, where she competed with 52 other champions of contests in every state as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C. These champions emerged from a field of more than 365,000 students nationwide.

To watch the 2015 Missouri State Finals, click here:
Round 1
Round 2
Round 3 and Presentation of Awards

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