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Poetry Out Loud (POL)

Poetry Out Loud (POL)

Poetry Out Loud: Celebrating Poetry in Maryland Schools

The words of great poets literally come to life in Poetry Out Loud (POL), a literary arts program created by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation. Through MSAC support, students across Maryland are enriched by this national arts education program that encourages the mastery of great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition.

The Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) announced that 17-year-old Sharese Acheampong of New Town High School in Baltimore County placed first at the 2016 Maryland Poetry Out Loud (POL) State Finals. The event was on March 12, 2016, at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and was hosted by Aaron Henkin of WYPR. Singer/songwriter Victoria Vox was the musical guest.



Acheampong spent her freshman year in Ghana, West Africa. When she arrived at New Town, the tall, confident student surprised her teachers with her mastery of the English language. This POL competition was Acheampong’s second. She chose “It was not Death for I stood up” (Emily Dickinson), “Make a Law so that the Spine Remembers Wings” (Larry Levis), and “Poem about People” (Robert Pinsky).

“The three poems I chose have universality among them that deals with the nature of the human condition. When I write poetry or recite it, my goal is to make my audience a part of my experience,” said Acheampong. “I felt that the poems I chose were filled with emotions that the audience could relate to while also resonating with me, which is also very important.”

Danni Vitullo, 17, a Wilde Lake High School senior in Howard County, placed second; Kaitlyn Wilson, a Colonel Richardson High School senior in Caroline County, took third place. 

“It is an extreme honor to be representing Maryland in this competition, and it is honestly a bit daunting. I hope I can live up to the expectations of my family and friends and make my school proud. At the end of the day, I also want to create a memory that I'll be proud of too. Regardless of the outcome, I am excited, nervous, and very, very happy to be able to participate in something I already love to do,” Acheampong added. 

A new addition to the competition was Poetry Ourselves. Created by the NEA and open to participating states to include in their finals, Poetry Ourselves gave State Semi-Finalists the opportunity to write an original poem, the best of which would be awarded a prize during the state event. Seven of the nine competitors chose to write poems, which were voted on by the State Finals judges prior to the completion.  

After the top three poems had been read, first place went to Acheampong for "The Morrison House," a poem she wrote as part of a "food" topic in her creative writing class in January.

“The Morrison House”
By Sharese Acheampong

The Morrison Women had affixed themselves

with the art of modern cooking.

They folded themselves into the bread

and polished the dishes until they bled

and their fingers were sore

and all of it for

the art of modern cooking.

The Morrison Men had affixed themselves

with the task of always eating.

The Morrison women's’ mouths

in an insufferable drought

when the Morrison men

eat again,

always, always eating.

The Morrison House had affixed itself

with the job of always cleaning

the unspoken words of the Morrison wives,

and all of the secrets that they try to hide,

sweeping up old wives' tales,

and polishing ugly truths, when all else fails

to keep up the guise,

with the job of always cleaning.

The Walls in the House

were not owned by the Morrisons.

They had affixed themselves with the art of always


Transfixed by a Thanksgiving Dinner to die for.

The turkey sits

as the center piece

and for a moment, the Morrisons are still.

But the Walls have known

the Morrison men since they were boys.

How more often than not

stirring the pot

kept the Morrison women alive.

For the Morrison House

often had to clean up Morrison blood

And the Morrison men

had eaten much more

than just the food on their plate.

And the Morrison women

had learned to turn

their food into their hate.


Pictured above, left: 2016 Maryland Poetry Out Loud Champion Sharese Acheampong. Pictured above, right: Group photograph of the 2016 Maryland Poetry Out Loud State Finalists. Photos by Edwin Remsberg.





National Champion, Ahkei Togun, Virginia

Marta Palombo, Georgia, Second Place

Nicholas Amador, Hawaii, Third Place



Maryland State Champion and Nationals Finalist

Sharese Acheampong, New Town High, Baltimore County



REGION 1 (Northern and Western Maryland) Winners and State Semi-Finalists

Sharese Acheampong, New Town High, Baltimore County

Hannah Kirby, Boonsboro High, Washington County

Jan Lomahan, Heritage Academy, Washington County


REGION 2 (Central and Southern Maryland) Winners and State Semi-Finalists

Christian Farley, Patuxent High, Calvert County

Megan Hromek, Centennial High, Howard County

Dani Vitullo, Wilde Lake High, Howard County


REGION 3 (Eastern Shore) Winners and State Semi-Finalists

Kaitlyn Wilson, Colonel Richardson High, Caroline County

Amy Nguyen, Saints Peter and Paul High, Talbot County

Nick Selser, James M. Bennett High, Wicomico County



Sharese Acheampong, New Town High

Emma Bourgeois, Severna Park Senior High

Grace Broyhill, Broadneck High

Kate Cameron, Linganore High

Katherine Cognard-Black, Leonardtown High

Kat Csanadi-Schwartz, Huntingtown High

Lauren Cunningham, Northern High

Joy Dewar, St. Mary’s Ryken High

Christian Farley, Patuxent High

Lia Figurelli, Gerstell Academy

Violet Forquer, Brunswick High

Kathryn Funk, The King’s Christian Academy

Apeksha Ghumatkar, Wicomimco High

Jodi-Ann Griffin, South River High

Christen Holmes, Calvert High School

Megan Hromek, Centennial High

Su Kim, Arundel High

Cynthia King, Bowie High

Hannah Kirby, Boonsboro High

Esther Lawson-John, Mt. Hebron High

Marcy Ledvinka, Hereford High

Jan Lomahan, Heritage Acadmey

Shania Miles, Southern High

Amy Nguyen, Saints Peter and Paul High

Sarah Ruehle, Dulaney High

Lanae Samuel, Owings Mills High

Sydney Seay, Parkville High

Nick Selser, James M. Bennett High

Emily Smith, North Caroline High

Madeline Sokoloski, Barbara Ingram School for the Arts

Sophia Sorenson, Brookewood School

Katrina Stubbs, Annapolis High

Jinghan Sun, Urbana High

Dani Vitullo, Wilde Lake High

Carolyn Williams, Glen Burnie High

Katilyn Wilson, Colonel Richardson High

Caylee Winpigler, Walkersville High

Dash Yeatts-Lonske, Richard Montgomery High

Vivian Zhuan, Reservoir High




Poetry Out Loud in Maryland has grown tremendously over the last eleven years. To conduct the program, registration is limited to the first 15 schools per region (for a total of 45 schools). Counties with many schools will be restricted, to preserve representation from the entire state. 

Region One: Allegany County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Cecil County, Frederick County, Garrett County Harford County, Washington County

Region Two: Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Calvert County, Charles County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George's County, St. Mary's County

Region Three: Caroline County, Dorchester County, Kent County Queen Anne's County, Talbot County, Somerset County, Wicomico County, Worcester County

Each school's first place winner will go straight to one of three regional competitions (with a second place winner as back up).

Three winners from each region will go on to the State Finals. 

Dates of regionals are Saturdays in February, 2017. For full information (uploaded in November, 2016), click on the "Maryland Competitions" link in the sidebar. 

Maryland State Finals are March 18, 2017, 1:00 pm, at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Since 2005, nearly 4.7 million students have competed in Poetry Out Loud nationwide. That's almost 4.7 million students who have learned at least one poem by heart!

In Maryland, approximately 107,000 students have participated in the program, learning the power of poetry firsthand. 



Please note that the 2016-17 POL Teacher’s Guide reflects the following changes:

·         All POL lesson plans will only be available on the website here. The three lesson plans that traditionally appeared in the hard copy teacher’s guide have been moved online. The NEA offers 12 lesson plans online, tailored to POL and covering a wide range of topics. We encourage POL teachers to visit the Teaching Resources section of to view lesson plans and other helpful information.

·         Level of Complexity is no longer a separate scoring criteria for Poetry Out Loud. POL teachers, see your Teacher's Guide for more information.

·         The accuracy score sheet now lists specific deductions for omitting an epigraph and/or including a footnote during competition. The NEA will also be adding a note to each poem in the online anthology that includes an epigraph or footnote. Please scroll to the bottom of Brenda Cárdenas's "Zacuanpapalotls"  to see an example of this note.

·         The NEA has rewritten some of the descriptive language for the Overall Performance and Dramatic Appropriateness categories. POL teachers, students, and judges: please review these categories closely.