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Poetry Out Loud (POL)

Poetry Out Loud (POL)


National Finals Cancelled Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

From the Poetry Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts:

Federal Guidelines to slow the spread of the Coronavirus-19 require avoiding social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people, and avoiding discretionary travel for the foreseeable future.  Out of care for the health and safety of students, parents, and everyone involved in Poetry Out Loud, the National Finals Competition scheduled for April 27 – 29th in Washington D.C. is cancelled. 

The Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts understand that many people have committed long hours preparing for the POL Finals Competition, and we share in your disappointment.  In the weeks to come, we will explore ways to honor the achievements of the 2020 Poetry Out Loud State Champions.

Should you have specific questions or concerns, please email


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.


Randolph Smith, an 11th grader at Concordia Preparatory High School in Baltimore County, was selected as the Poetry Out Loud (POL) Maryland State champion on March 7th during state finals at Baltimore Center Stage.  He was among nine finalists that were selected from more than 24 Maryland students in nine counties that competed in the statewide competition. The POL 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 and regional arts organizations across the country. The Maryland POL competition is produced by the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC).

During the competition, Randolph Smith recited “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes, “Prints”by Joseph Bruchac, and “Is My Team Ploughing” by A.E. Housman. 

Second place was awarded to Maylis Quesnel, a 12th grader at Richard Montgomery High School, Montgomery County, and third place went to Katie Spencer, a 10th grader at Indian Creek School,Anne Arundel County. The six remaining finalists were Joy Campbell (Frederick County), Allison (Faith) Comising (Howard County), Caroline Daley (St. Mary’s County), Ellie Heath (Anne Arundel County), Kate Maerten (Carroll County), and Sanjana Subramanian (Frederick County).

The Maryland State Poetry Ourselves winner was also announced during the competition. The winner is Joy Campbell, an 11th grader at Oakdale High School in Frederick County. Poetry Ourselves is an additional optional competition that allows students to submit an original piece of poetry.

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 January and 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.

“I’ve enjoyed seeing the growth of the regional finalists as they prepare for the state competition," said MSAC Executive Director Ken Skrzesz. "The students approach their recitations thoughtfully and with excellent analysis guided by extraordinary teachers.”

The Maryland State champion receives $1,200 in combined NEA and MSAC prize funds and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Finals on April 27-29, 2020. 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. At the National Finals, POL awards a total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends with $20,000 awarded to the POL National Champion.

The 2020 POL Maryland State Finals judges: 

Abdul Ali is a poet, literary activist, and educator. He is the winner of the 2014 New Issues Poetry Book Prize for his debut collection, Trouble Sleeping. Ali's poems have appeared in numerous journals including Poetry Foundation website, Poetry Society of America's Poem-a-Day, Plume, and Poet Lore, to name a few. Ali was recently awarded a Ruby Award from the Deutch Roberts Foundation and works as a grants manager for a humanities initiative at the Community College of Baltimore County.

Slam Poet Gayle Danley is the 1994 National Poetry Slam champion and the 1996 International Poetry Slam champion. For over 25 years, she's taught students across the state of Maryland how to conceive, write and perform poetry from the soul. CBS 60 Minutes profiled her work with middle schoolers in Baltimore County, and last year she was designated the Maryland Library Association's Poet of the Year.

Unique Robinson is a writer/MC, performer, professor, educator, host, and proud Baltimore native. She received her Master of Fine Arts in English & Poetry from Mills College in 2014, and her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing & Black Studies from Hampshire College in 2009. Upon returning home, she became a Poetry Teaching Artist & Program Director/Operations Manager for DewMore Baltimore, and was the recipient of the 2017 Emerging Teaching Artist award from Arts Every Day. 

Jeff Smallwood has been the featured poet at the Crofton Library Poetry Series hosted by Susan Sonde, and has been a regular contributor to the Poet's Circle workshop in Prince Frederick since 2016. In 2018, his poetry and artwork was featured in a display at the Twin Beaches library. Jeff works professionally as a software engineer at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station and lives in Prince Frederick, MD.

Follow and tag Poetry Out Loud using #POL2020, @PoetryOutLoud. 






​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 Baltimore Center Stage.

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.