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Poetry Out Loud

Participation in Poetry Out Loud begins at the classroom level around the country. Teachers engage students through instruction in poetry and performance and organize contests involving one or more classes. Winners advance to the state finals, and the state champion advances to the national finals in Washington, D.C. Contestants choose and learn about poems from an extensive online anthology of classical and contemporary poetry while mastering public speaking skills as well as building self confidence.

Vermont is going to the National Finals!

Congratulations to Irén Hangen Vázquez who represented Vermont at the National Semifinals on May 2 and was named one of nine National Finalists. Irén will go on to compete for the title of 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion at the National Finals on May 27.

2020-2021 Program

December 15, 2020 original poetry submission deadline
December 31, 2020 school registration deadline
February 11, 2021 school competition deadline
February 15, 2021 student champion registration deadline
February 26, 2021 video submission deadline, poem 1 & poem 2 (video submission tips)
March 4, 2021 video submission deadline, poem 3
March 15, 2021 Competition Showcase (virtual)
May 27, 2021 National Finals (virtual)




2021 State Competition Showcase

The state competition showcase aired the evening of March 15 on Vermont PBS' OVEE platform. Actor Andy Butterfield hosted as the audience watched one recitation video from each student, and our panel of six local poet judges made appearances. This year’s champion and runner-up were announced, as well as the participants with the five highest cumulative scores, and the winners of this year's Original Poetry Awards. A recording of the event will be provided later on the Arts Council’s YouTube channel.

State Champion: Irén Hangen Vázquez, Burr and Burton Academy

Runner-up: Gavin Ghafoori, St. Johnsbury Academy

After Vázquez and Ghafoori, the next highest scorers were Grace Brink from Williamstown Middle High School, Mollie Allen from South Burlington High School, and Greta Alexandra-Parker from Rice Memorial High School.

Original Poetry Award Winners

  • Samantha Aikman from Mt. Mansfield Union High School for her poem "Undone". Aikman was also a writing award winner in 2020.
  • Brooks Balkan from South Burlington High School for his poem "One Night in the Barn"
  • Talia Gibbs from Vermont Commons School for her poem "Fun-size"
  • Beniamino Nardin from Harwood Union High School for his poem "That Which Darkens"

All School Champions

Owen Biniecki, Bellows Free Academy; Hazel Kinnersly, Brattleboro Union High School; Irén Hangen Vázquez, Burr and Burton Academy; Mary Amsbary, Champlain Valley Union High School; Lilith Demers, Hazen Union High School; Nuala Dougherty, Mount Mansfield Union High School; Greta Alexandra-Parker, Rice Memorial High School; Mollie Allen, South Burlington High School; Emily LaRose, Spaulding High School; Gavin Ghafoori, St. Johnsbury Academy; Benji Richards, Stratton Mountain School; Eloise Silver Van Meter, Thetford Academy; Thelonious Shores, U-32 Middle High School; Gary Zhu, Vermont Academy; Adelie Tebbetts, Vermont Commons; Grace Brink, Williamstown Middle High School

Classroom Resources

The national Poetry Out Loud website holds recitation tipslesson plans and activitiescommon core standards and more. The POL 2020-2021 Teachers Guide includes a sample class schedule, tips for organizing local contests, optional scoring rubrics, accessibility awareness, and publicity tips.

The Poetry Out Loud Anthology is a list of poems eligible for POL competition, updated yearly; searchable by poem name or by poet name. Other recommended anthologies include The Poetry Foundation's online collection, Billy Collins’ Poetry 180 Project, Canada’s Poetry in Voice, or the Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day (receive a new poem to explore by email every day). We have also prepared these video submission tips for students.

Poetry Out Loud supports the proficiency-based learning movement happening across the state. Listed in this document—"Proficiency-based Learning and Poetry Out Loud"—are English Language Arts proficiencies and transferrable skills targeted by Poetry Out Loud.

Visit the Vermont Poetry Out Loud Archive and PBS Resources to see previously recorded state championships and explore other local poetry resources.

The Original Poetry Awards

For the second year, the Council is partnering with the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center's Scholastic Writing Awards program to hold the Original Poetry Awards. Any student from a school participating in Poetry Out Loud may submit at least one original poem for consideration. All work should be entered in the category of Poetry. Submissions will be reviewed by a panel of Vermont poets. There is no cost to participate.

Poems should be submitted by the December 15 deadline; two pieces of student writing will be recognized March 5. Find more information on the Scholastic Writing Awards website.

Read the winners of the Original Poetry Awards.

Poetry Workshops

poetry recitation workshops

The Arts Council funds visiting artist workshops led by dynamic teaching artists in classrooms each year. These visits can inspire students to take positive risks, hone their performance skills, and engage in a new way. The Council aims to fund workshops for any school that applies. Funds are limited, however; register and apply at your earliest convenience.

creative writing workshops

To support students in the writing process for the Original Poetry Awards, the Council offers in-school and virtual creative writing workshops with local poets. If you are interested in bringing a poet into your school for a two to three day residency, contact Troy Hickman by email, or indiciate your interest in the school registration form. These workshops are a great way to support students in crafting poems both for submission and for personal satisfaction.

this year's writing workshop facilitators

James Crews

Award-winning poet James Crews offers opportunities via videos and Zoom meetings for students to explore poetry and writing. Through discussion of poems and interactive exercises they can complete in class, James invites students to use poetry as a tool for self-expression and to practice various aspects of the writing process, including revision. If you’re interested in weaving more poetry and writing into your curriculum, you can request the initial video offering from James, and he will share that with you. You may then request a follow-up class visit held via Zoom, during which James will create a welcoming space for students to create and share their own original writing. VT Humanities recently filmed James at Jamaica State Park as part of the "Words in the Woods" program, available online.


Geof Hewitt

Geof Hewitt offers recitation workshops and multi-day writing workshops. Geof has been writing poems since he was a teenager, and has been a VAC teaching artist since the 1970s. He has published four books of his own poems and three books on strategies for teaching writing. Geof is active throughout Vermont promoting poetry slams and bringing his energy into the classroom, helping students produce and deliver their own unique poems. VT Humanities recently filmed Geof at Elmore State Park as part of the "Words in the Woods" program, available online.

Thank You!

Poetry Out Loud is supported by the Poetry Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the state of Vermont.