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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 Poetry Out Loud (POL) Maryland State Finals was held March 2, 2019 in the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Auditorium at the Baltimore Museum of Art. This year’s Maryland State Champion is Grace Knor, a junior at Tuscarora High School in Frederick County. She was among 9 finalists that were selected from more than 7,500 Maryland students in 14 counties that competed in the statewide POL competitions.  This poetry recitation contest is co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and The Poetry Foundation, and administered by U.S. state arts agencies across the country. Total Maryland student participation has reached 125,000 since its inception over 14 years ago. The Maryland Poetry Out Loud competition is produced by the Maryland State Arts Council.

During the competition Grace recited "Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou, "Refusing Silence" by Tess Gallagher, and "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus.  

"Grace has shown amazing insight with the three poems she has chosen," claims Lydia Kowalski, Literary Specialist, English Department Chair, Tuscarora High School. "Her recitation has miraculously improved with every step of the competition process even though her initial performance was nothing short of astounding.  She truly has a real shot at winning at nationals."

Second place was awarded to Hanna Al-Kowsi, a senior at Marriotts Ridge High School, Howard County, and third place went to Riley Marzola, a sophomore at Concordia Preparatory School, Baltimore County. The six remaining finalists were Kate Maerten, Carroll County, Jaylen Barrett, Howard County, Poushali Banarjee, Howard County, Jamera Christy, Kent County, John Golladay, Talbot County, and Quinn Onley, Worcester County.

Participation in POL offers students the opportunity to learn about their literary heritage, build self-confidence and improve their public speaking skills. The process begins in the fall when participating students select three eligible poems from the POL website, analyze and memorize them, and present the poems at their school competitions. In February each school winner moves on to regionals and, in March, at the State Finals competition, the participants are evaluated on physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, evidence of understanding, and overall performance.

"Poetry Out Loud provides a wonderful opportunity for young people to develop a relationship with poems that will continue the rest of their lives,” said Chris Stewart, MSAC POL Director and Arts in Education Program Director.  “Each year, as we travel around the state conducting regionals and meeting talented students and their dedicated teachers, we are reminded of and witness to the importance of creative expression and how this program empowers young people and gives them a voice."

"It is always inspiring to see students expand through the arts. This program offers the opportunity for students to apply personal experiences and meaning to poetry... to elevate the words off the page," stated MSAC Executive Director, Ken Skrzesz. "We thank and congratulate all the students, their teachers and parents for their commitment to this journey."

The 2019 Maryland Poetry Out Loud State Finals Competition was hosted by Aaron Henkin of WYPR and along with performances by ConneXions Choir from ConneXions: A Community Based Art School, directed by Brandon A. Booth. The judges were Em Sea Water, a former Maryland Poetry Out Loud regional coordinator. Water balances the roles of a public school teacher, father, poet and community activist, and creates music that inspires audiences of all ages including young children. Celeste Doaks, author of Cornrows and Cornfields, (Wrecking Ball Press, 2015), and editor and contributor of poetry anthology Not Without Our Laughter: Poems of Humor, Joy, and Sexuality, (Mason Jar Press, 2017). She’s received a 2017 Rubys Grant in Literary Arts and her journalism has appeared in the Huffington PostVillage VoiceTime Out New York, and QBR (Quarterly Black Book Review). Andrew Motion, the author of 12 books of poetry including most recently Peace Talks. Motion was the UK Poet Laureate from 1999-2009, and is the co-founder and co-director of The Poetry Archive and Poetry by Heart, England’s national recitation contest open to students ages 14-18. He was knighted for his services to poetry in 2009. Before joining The Writing Seminars faculty at Johns Hopkins University, he was Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway College, University of London.

The Maryland State Champion receives $1200 in prize funds from the NEA and MSAC and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Finals, April 29 - May 1, 2019, at the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University, Washington, D.C. The Maryland winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up will receive $850 in combined NEA and MSAC prize funds, with $200 for his/her school library. Poetry Out Loud awards a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends at the National Finals, with $20,000 awarded to the Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

Follow and tag Poetry Out Loud using #POL2019, @PoetryOutLoud. 



Poetry Out Loud State Champions pose for a photo at the State Finals event held at The Baltimore Museum of Art on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Pictured from left to right: Quinn Onley, Pocomoke High School, Worcester County, Kate Maerten, Gerstell Academy, Carroll County, Jaylen Barrett, Reservoir High School, Howard County, Jamera Christy, Kent County High School, Kent County, Poushali Banarjee, Centennial High School, Howard County, Riley Marzola, Concordia Preparatory School, Baltimore County (third place winner), John Galladay, Saint Peter and Paul High School, Talbot County, Grace Knor, Tuscarora High School (Maryland State Champion), and Hanna Al-Kowsi, Marriotts Ridge High School, Howard County (second place winner) Photo credit: Edwin Remsberg.



Maryland Poetry Out Loud Program Video:








​The original poem competition adopted for Maryland State Finals in 2015 for the POL programs 10th anniversary, was added to the regional competitions beginning with the 2018-2019 program.

Guidelines here. Regional prize is $100. State Finals prize is $300.



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 January and February. For full information (uploaded in November), click on the "Maryland Competitions" link in the right hand sidebar above.

Maryland State Finals are held in early March 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 129,000 students have participated in the program, learning the power of poetry firsthand. 



  • 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.
  • 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.