California Arts Council

State of California

Poetry Out Loud


Levi Lakota Lowe, CA POL Champion (Tuolumne County). Photo: Jay R. Hart
what it is

Poetry Out Loud (POL) is an extraordinary opportunity for high school students to learn great poetry, perform it, and win prizes – including a trip to Washington D.C. for the California State Champion to compete in the national finals. POL is a free program that helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, learn about their literary heritage and compete for college scholarship funding. Nationwide, Poetry Out Loud has grown every year with millions of students participating across the country. California features the largest, most exciting competition of all! Join our Facebook Group to connect with other participants and check out to see all of the POL action across the country. 

CA Senate District 2 Winners! Photo: Jay R. Hart
how it works
  • The structure of Poetry Out Loud is similar to a spelling bee. This annual program starts in the fall with high school teachers using the free Poetry Out Loud teacher toolkit and related materials to teach poetry recitation and run classroom competitions. Poetry Out Loud does not require full class periods and can be completed in 2-3 weeks.

    Following a pyramid structure, classroom winners advance to a school-wide competition.  Each school’s champion competes at the district or county level by mid-February, and county winners are treated to an unforgettable two days at the California Poetry Out Loud State Finals in Sacramento on March 18 and 19, 2018. The State Finals competition is usually held in the historic Senate Chamber (legislative calendar permitting) and is webcast and televised via the California Channel. The county champions are honored with a dinner reception and each receives a certificate of recognition from their legislative representative.

    At the state level, one winner will be selected to represent California in the national competition. The California State winner receives: 

      • $200 cash prize and an all expense paid trip to Washington, D.C.
      • $500 for their school to purchase literary materials
      • An opportunity to compete at the National Finals for college scholarship funds

    The National Finals in Washington D.C. will be April 23-25th, 2018. Check out for detailed information. 

    Champs! Photo: Jay R. Hart
    how to get involved

    Interested schools, teachers, parents, and students can be in touch with the CAC staff contact directly.
    Any public or private high school in the state is welcome and encouraged to participate. Homeschooled students may participate by joining in a registered high school's competition or by organizing a contest with other homeschooled students. Poetry Out Loud is accessible to students with disabilities. Teachers are encouraged to involve all students in Poetry Out Loud activities and can learn more about POL accessibility here.


    Find complete information on Poems & Performance, Teaching Resources, and the Competition at



staff contact

Josy Miller
Arts Education Program Specialist



  • September 1, 2017— POL Online Anthology Ready for 2017-18 Cycle
  • September 7, 2017 @ 4pm—POL Kick-Off Conference Call (Invitation w/ call-in information forthcoming)
  • September 29, 2017—POL Fall Application Due
  • December 1, 2017—Award Form Due (indicating final participating school and teacher list)
  • February 15, 2018—Deadline for County Competitions
  • March 18-19, 2018—State Finals Competition
  • April 23-25, 2018—Poetry Out Loud National Finals


CAC partners with one organization per county to administer Poetry Out Loud. If you are not currently a POL partner, please contact the program specialist prior to application.



Watch the second day of 2015 CA POL State Finals competition, courtesy of CalChannel. Watch additional past winners on our YouTube Channel.

View photos of our County Champions at the 2015 Poetry Out Loud State Finals.