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High school students in Tennessee invited to compete in national poetry contest

Nashville, TN – The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation present Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest, in partnership with the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University.  Poetry Out Loud is a program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance and competition. During January and February, schools are invited to participate in classroom and school wide contests, advancing to a state competition on Saturday, March 15, 2014. The state champion will then advance to National Finals, to take place on April 28-30, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Whitney Baxter from Providence Academy, in Johnson City was selected as the 2013 Tennessee Poetry Out Loud champion and represented that state in the 2013 National Finals in Washington, DC, last April. Some 365,000 students from more than 2,000 high schools throughout the country took part in the 2012-2013 Poetry Out Loud Program.

Poetry Out Loud seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry – recitation and performance. The program builds on the resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of rap music among youth. Poetry Out Loud invites the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theater into the English classroom. Through Poetry Out Loud, students can master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

The NEA and the Poetry Foundation have partnered to provide administrative grants to state arts agencies and awards, and will coordinate the National Finals next April. With this support, the Tennessee Arts Commission will target 40+ schools in Tennessee.

Additionally, the NEA and the Poetry Foundation will provide state arts agencies with free, standards-based curriculum materials for use by partnering schools. These materials include online poetry anthologies, a Teacher’s Guide with sample lesson plans to help instructors teach recitation and performance, and a Learning Recitation DVD. Program materials are available for download on the website which offers additional resources.

How to get involved in Poetry Out Loud

High school teachers who are interested in participating in Poetry Out Loud should know that the program takes one to three weeks of classroom time, and may be incorporated with existing poetry units. High schools that wish to be part of the official Poetry Out Loud program must contact the Tennessee Arts Commission to participate. Tennessee Arts Commission will determine which schools are eligible to take part in the official Poetry Out Loud program. Schools that are not in the official program may conduct their own contests using the online resources. Contact Nan Zierden, at (615)532-5934 or visit for more information.

Poetry Out Loud Awards

Students who participate in the official Poetry Out Loud program may be eligible to compete in the state and National Finals in 2013-2014. Each state champion and their teacher will receive cash prizes and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete for the national championship. The state champion’s school will also receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up and his/her teacher will receive cash prizes, and $200 for the school library. Poetry Out Loud will award a total of $50,000 in cash and school stipends at the National Finals, included a $20,000 award for the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

For further information on Poetry Out Loud, visit