About the Competition

Poem Selection:

All competing students need to memorize 3 poems that are found in the Poetry Out Loud Anthology.  Each year poems are retired so please check here  to ensure your poem is eligible.  

The number of poems a student recites may differ by level of competition. At the classroom level, in the interest of time, teachers may elect to have students recite only one or two poems. We suggest that a school competition should require at least two poems by each participant. Students must have three poems prepared for regional, state and national contests.

Complete rules are outlined in the teacher’s guide, but include the following guidelines for students competing in regional, state and national contests.

  • One of the three poems must be written before the 20th century.
  • One must be 25 lines or shorter.
  • One poem may satisfy both criteria.


State Prizes

The Tennessee state winning student and teacher is awarded cash prizes and a trip to Washington, DC to represent Tennessee on a national level and compete again 53 other high school students from across the county and it territories . In addition, the state champion’s school will receive $500 to purchase poetry materials. The runner-up student and teacher will receive cash prizes and $200 to purchase poetry materials.

National Prizes

A total of $50,000 in scholarship awards and school stipends are awarded at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, with a $20,000 college scholarship award for the National Champion.


jonPoetry Out Loud is entering its eighth exciting year in Tennessee. Poetry Out Loud is administered by the Tennessee Arts Commission. Contact James Wells at (615) 532-5934 or james.wells@tn.gov for information and a toolkit. The Poetry Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission provide all the necessary materials for sponsoring a Poetry Out Loud contest in your school.