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Collage of three photos from the 2020 Poetry Out Loud Ohio State Finals

Poetry Out Loud Goes Virtual in 2021

Ohio’s Poetry Out Loud (POL) program is set to host virtual events for its 2021 regional semifinals and state finals competitions.

For 16 years, POL has connected high school students to poetry from a diverse array of poets from around the world and across the centuries. Created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, POL 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. POL encourages students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary heritage and contemporary life.

School registration for the 2021 competition is now open at

The switch to competitions presented digitally ensures that POL can continue safely as schools and communities operate according to reopening guidelines shared by the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.

“Ohio Poetry Out Loud’s ‘sweet sixteen’ will look a little different, but we are grateful to be able to offer this transformative program to high school students throughout Ohio in a new, digital space,” said Ohio Arts Council (OAC) Executive Director Donna S. Collins. “We know so many students look forward to sharing their love of poetry on stage each year, so it was important to Ohio Poetry Out Loud and our regional partners to find a way to safely continue this beloved annual tradition.”

To participate in POL, teachers, librarians, and administrators from around Ohio register their high schools with the OAC and organize contests with one class, several classes, or a whole school. Finalists from these school-specific contests are then invited to participate at local semifinal events organized by Ohio POL regional partners, which include the Piqua Arts Council in Piqua, and the Cuyahoga County Library in Parma, ELEMENTZ in Cincinnati, Wild Goose Creative in Columbus, the Marathon Center for Performing Arts in Findlay, and Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville.

In addition to hosting the virtual semifinal events this year, POL regional partners also offer workshops for teachers and school champions.

Students who receive the top scores at their regional semifinal competitions advance to the next level of competition: Ohio’s POL State Finals. Like the regional semifinal events, the state finals will also be held virtually this year. The event will take place on Friday, March 5, 2021, beginning at 6 p.m. More details will be released in the coming months.

The winner of the Ohio State Finals will go on to represent the Buckeye State at the POL National Finals, where he or she will compete with other state champions for awards and the title of national champion. This year, the POL National Finals, which are typically held in-person in Washington, D.C., will “take place in the spring as a video submission-based competition,” the National Endowment for the Arts’ POL website stated. Dates for the national finals event are forthcoming.

High school teachers are strongly encouraged to register their schools and offer students the chance to develop a lifelong love of poetry on the page and performed onstage. Contests, workshops, and multi-media program materials, including curricula, are free. POL is aligned with Common Core and National Council of Teachers of English NCTE standards.

More information and a school registration form are available at Registration closes on Dec. 1, 2020, at 11:30 p.m.

The nation’s largest youth poetry recitation competition is presented by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation in partnership with the Ohio Arts Council. The Poetry Out Loud program encourages high school students to learn about great poetry, master public-speaking skills, build self-confidence, and study their literary heritage.

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more about NEA.

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Amanda Etchison, Communications Strategist
Featured photos by Terry Gilliam

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