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Poetry Out Loud

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation partners with Utah Arts & Museums’ Arts Education Program to support Poetry Out Loud, which encourages Utah’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance.             

School Registration   

       Individual Student Registration           

  • POL uses a pyramid structure that starts at the classroom level. Every school winner or individual student (if home-schooled or individually participating) must compete at a regional level competition. Regional competitions take place throughout February. Each region will advance one winner to the state final competition in March.
  • For details regarding Utah’s POL activities, email Jean Irwin at jirwin@utah.gov or call 801-236-7557.
  • For full details on the national poetry recitation competition, visit www.poetryoutloud.org.
Recitation and performance are major trends in poetry. There has been a recent resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of hip-hop music. Poetry Out Loud builds on that momentum by inviting the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into the English and theatre class.

2018 Poetry Out Loud

The state finals for Poetry Out Loud were held on March 14 at co-host Westminster College’s Vieve Gore Concert Hall in the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts. Our Utah Poet Laureate, Paisley Rekdal, greeted the audience with some insightful comments about the role of poetry:

“Poetry isn’t meant to do something for us: only we can save ourselves. Only we act, and the poems we love give language to what we feel, what we believe, how we want to live in the world. That in itself is not nothing: poems, even if they have no obvious power, provide their readers with a kind of companionship on their journey to changing themselves. Poems make nothing happen, but a lifetime of reading poems has made me the person that I am. They’ve made me more willing to see myself connected to other people, to other moments of time. They’ve deepened my awareness of history, and place, they’ve shaped my beliefs, and they’ve fueled my hopes. That is the true power of art: it helps to make us the most aware, most vibrant humans that we can be.”

Rebecca Akec of Judge Memorial Catholic High School took home top honors. She received $200 and travel expenses to represent Utah at the national championship April 23-25 in Washington, D.C. Her school received a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. Runner-up Rain Flower Tanner of The Waterford School received $100, with $200 for her school library. Poetry Out Loud awards a $20,000 college scholarship to the national champion.

Approximately 25 high schools, 3,726 students, and 86 teachers in Utah participated in Poetry Out Loud activities and competed in school and regional competitions around the state. Students recited works they selected from an anthology of nearly 600 classic and contemporary poems.


Past Winners

  • 2017 – Ben Engel, Skyline High School, Salt Lake City
  • 2016 – Tessa Thornley, Bear River High School, Garland
  • 2015 – Sadie Merkley, Box Elder High School, Brigham City
  • 2014 – Ashlei Havili, American Fork High School, American Fork
  • 2013 – Devin Jones, West Jordan High School, West Jordan
  • 2012 – MarKaye Hassan, Logan High School, Logan (placed 3rd in National Competition)