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Poetry Out Loud

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with the 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.                            

  • 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)

Participation Call for Poetry Out Loud – 11 Sept 2013

“To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too.”

—Walt Whitman

Utah Arts & Museums invites all educators in Utah’s secondary schools to encourage students to participate in Poetry Out Loud (POL). The state competition is presented by Utah Arts & Museums. Poetry Out Loud is a national initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation that encourages students in grades 9-12 to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition.

In each state, Poetry Out Loud begins at the classroom or school level. Classroom winners advance to a school-wide competition, school winners advance to a regional competition, and regional winners advance to the state finals. The Utah champion competes in Washington, D.C. at the national finals, April 30 and May 1, 2014. Awards totaling $50,000 go to first-, second-, third-place and honorable-mention winners, as well as supporting the purchase of poetry books for represented schools.

Students from schools not associated with an accessible region compete at a preliminary competition held the day of the state finals. Participating schools must register and complete their school-wide competition by February 7, 2014. Regional competitions will end by February 21, 2014. The Utah State Final Competition is at 7:00 p.m. March 12, 2014, at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

“Utah has had four finalists in the national top nine,” said Utah Arts & Museums Director Lynnette Hiskey. “Last year, Devin Jones of West Jordan High School received an honorable mention at the national finals. We’re very proud of our students who compete and excel in this wonderful program.”

In 2012, senior MarKaye Hassan of Logan High School competed against 53 state and territory champions. Hassan received the third-place prize and a $5,000 award, and was invited to return to Washington, D.C., to recite at the National Book Festival. In 2008, Skyline High School senior Madison Niermeyer also placed third at the national competition and received a $5,000 scholarship award. Niermeyer was contacted by noted Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti to congratulate her on her recitation of his poem “I Am Waiting.”

For information on participating, call 801.533.5760 or e-mail pol@utah.gov.