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Poetry Out Loud Recitation Contest

2020 Poetry Out Loud Participants

Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national program that encourages the study of great poetry by offering educational materials and a dynamic recitation competition to high schools across the country. POL uses a pyramid structure that begins at the classroom level. Winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to a regional and/or state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals in Washington, DC. More than 100,000 students are expected to take part in POL nationwide each year.

This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions placed on schools, including limited access to school buildings and working with students in-person, the 2021 Poetry Out Loud program was implemented virtually, with one-on-one coaching and closed adjudication sessions. Students practiced at home, and videotaped their recitation for remote adjudication by a panel of judges, selected for their background in literature, poetry, and theater.

Rebecca Wisniewski Named Delaware Poetry Out Loud Champion

Rebecca Wisniewski - 2021 Poetry Out Loud WinnerFrom a field of 10 Delaware high school students, Rebecca Wisniewski, a senior from Milford High school, earned the title of 2021 Poetry Out Loud Delaware State Champion at the state finals held virtually on March 2, 2021.  Rebecca will represent Delaware in the national semifinals on May 2, beginning at noon. Visit https://www.arts.gov/initiatives/poetry-out-loud to watch the performances.

Rebecca is a member of the school drama club and has acted in plays and musical for years. She unexpectedly found that learning poetry has made her a better performer in general, stating, “you have to put yourself in the background – while you are forming a deeper connection to the pieces. Reciting a poem means you have to pull from your emotions. It’s about being self-aware, even while forming a deep connection to the voices in the poems.” Ms. Wisniewski also took part in Poetry Out Loud previously in her junior year.

Wisniewski chose poems this year with very different energies. “Domestic Situation” by Ernest Hilbert, which Wisniewski calls “a tricky poem,” challenged her with its seeming sarcasm about a somber subject – domestic abuse. “I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain” by Emily Dickinson felt manic and mournful, and “has so much room inside it to perform.” Her favorite, “How to Triumph Like a Girl” by Ada Limón, was, in Rebecca’s words, “fun, upbeat and has a positive message.” All of the poems scored high marks with the judges.

For her winning presentation, Wisniewski will receive $200 and will compete at the National Semifinals which will be held virtually on Sunday, May 2 beginning at noon on the National Endowment for the Arts website. Milford High School will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials for its school library.  Lia Dougherty, the first runner-up from Sanford School, will receive $100, and the school will receive $200 for its school library. Janelle Carter of Delaware Valley Classical School in New Castle was the second runner up.

The Poetry Out Loud state competition, sponsored by the Delaware Division of the Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

Previous Competitions

2020 | 2019 | 2018 2017 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006



Poetry Out Loud is a fun, participatory way to teach poetry and meet Delaware’s English Language Arts requirements. Free, standards-based curriculum materials are available for all participating schools. Participating schools also have the opportunity to work with teaching artists who give workshops on poetry recitation for students.

Poetry Out Loud curriculum materials include online poetry anthologies, a teacher’s guide to help instructors teach recitation and performance, a DVD and companion guide of past national competition performances to use as a learning tool, promotional and media guides, and a comprehensive website located at www.poetryoutloud.org. Curriculum materials are available for download on the Poetry Out Loud website, which can also be used by schools not involved in the official current competition.

Please visit our FAQ for more information about Poetry Out Loud

The Delaware Division of the Arts will provide guidance in running your school’s Poetry Out Loud program and is happy to answer any questions or concerns. Please contact:

Sheila Dean Ross, Program Officer, Arts in Education/Accessibility and Poetry Out Loud Coordinator



Important Dates (subject to change)

Sept. 2020Registration Opens
Oct. 2, 2020Registration Deadline
Oct.– Nov. 2020Classroom Instruction/School Competitions via Zoom
Nov. 30, 2020Deadline to Report School Winners
Feb. 25, 2021DE State Competition
Rounds 1 & 2: To be held as a closed adjudicator meeting via Zoom
Mar. 2, 2021DE State Finals
Round 3: To be held as a closed adjudicator meeting via Zoom
May 2, 2021Poetry Out Loud National Semi-finals
May 27, 2021Poetry Out Loud National Finals

Power of Poetry

Logo montage: Poetry Out Loud, NEA, Poetry Foundation

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