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Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Out Loud National Finals May 3-4: Follow Them Live!  

Cheer for Sarah Koo, the Missouri State Champion of the 2016 Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest, as she competes in the national finals in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 3-4.

Enjoy this live, one-time only webcast of the semifinals and finals. The 53 state champions will gather at semifinals on May 3 from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. CDT at the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University. Nine state champions will advance to the finals, also held at the Lisner Auditorium, on Wednesday from 6 to 8:15 p.m. CDT.


8–11 a.m.- First Semifinal: students from East Central and Northeast States
(in order: NY, RI, DE, CT, NH, ME, MA, PA, DC, SC, MD, NC, NJ, VT, WV, OH, USVI, VA)

Noon–3 p.m. - Second Semifinal: students from Midwest and South Central states
(in order: NE, AR, WI, MS, IN, PR, KY, GA, LA, TN, MO, MI, OK, IL, FL, AL, KS, IA)

4–7 p.m. - Third Semifinal: students from Upper Northwest and Western states
(in order: MN, CO, NM, MT, WA, NV, WY, ND, CA, UT, ID, OR, AK, TX, SD, HI, AZ)

Sarah Koo is a 17-year-old senior from Parkway North High School in St. Louis County. She rose to the top at the Missouri State Finals in Jefferson City on March 10.


Watch the videos of the 2016 Missouri State Finals
Round 1 – Sarah Koo performs at 17:42, Sanctuary by Jean Valentine
Round 2 – Sarah Koo, 16:14, Lines Written in Early Spring by William Wordsworth
Round 3 – Sarah Koo, 17:31, In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr. by June Jordan

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.

Regional competitions in Missouri took place from January 16 to February 17. These are the regional champions:

• Central:  Shakira Cross, sophomore, Hickman High School (Columbia)
• Kansas City North:   Ruth Edmondson, sophomore, Northland Christian School
• Kansas City South:  Molly Williams, senior, Summit Christian Academy (Lee’s Summit)
• Northeast:  Elva Moreno, senior, Milan High School
• Northwest:  Alex Hall, junior, St. Joseph Home School Group
• Southeast:  Kirstan Graviett, senior, Notre Dame Regional High School (Cape Girardeau)
• Southwest:   Lydia Laub, senior, Stockton High School
• St. Charles County:  Angelreana Choi, freshman, Rolla High School
• St. Louis City:  Kaitlyn Davis, senior, McKinley Classical Leadership Academy
• St. Louis County:  Sarah Koo, senior, Parkway North High School


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, 2015, 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.


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