New Jersey Poetry Out Loud

NJ Poetry Out LoudThe National ProgramThe New Jersey ProgramPoetry Out Loud School ResidenciesHosting a School CompetitionRegional CompetitionsNJPOL Mentoring ProjectState FinalsNational FinalsScheduleChoosing Your PoemsPrevious WinnersContactProgram and Partner Links

POL2016_colorPoetry Out Loud is the national poetry recitation contest that encourages high school students (grades 9-12) to learn about great works of classic and contemporary poetry through memorization and recitation. Writers Theatre has partnered with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts for the past 11 years on the NJ Poetry Out Loud Program.

New Jersey is a national leader in school, student, teacher, and classroom participation. In 2015-16, over 25% of all eligible schools participated in the program.

The National Poetry Out Loud competition was initiated in 2006 by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Poetry Foundation. It is administered in partnership with the State Arts Agencies of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Now in its eleventh year, over 365,000 students nation-wide participated in 2015.

The NEA Poetry Out Loud website is a comprehensive resource for the program. Along with program news, it contains contains an online anthology of approved poems, programs rules, resource guides, an archive of past performances, and features of poets whose works are in the anthology.

National Poetry Out Loud Website

13. POL 2015 Regional Finalists

Students grades 9-12 in any public, private, religious school in New Jersey, as well as home-schooled students, are eligible to participate in the New Jersey Poetry Out Loud program. All schools follow the same “poetry bee-style” contest structure established by the national program which begins at the classroom level. Classroom winners advance to a school-wide competition, then to regional competitions in February, followed by the NJPOL State Finals held annually in March. The NJPOL State Champion competes in the National Finals held in Washington, D.C. in the Spring, usually May or June.

NJPOL holds six regional contests prior to the final state contest. Regions are grouped by counties. They are:

  • Region 1
    • Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Mercer and Salem
    • Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, Camden, NJ
  • Region 2
    • Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland
    • Levoy Theatre, Millville, NJ
  • Region 3
    • Middlesex, Monmouth, and Ocean
    • Two River Theatre, Red Bank, NJ
  • Region 4
    • Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren
    • Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown, NJ
  • Region 5
    • Essex and Union
    • South Orange Performing Arts Center
  • Region 6
    • Bergen, Hudson, and Passaic
    • Bergen Performing Arts Center, Englewood, NJ

Check the schedule tab for the current date and time of each competition.

The State Final Competition has been held at numerous sites, including The College of New Jersey, Princeton University, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Check the schedule tab for the current location, date, and time.

The NJPOL website is hosted by Discover Jersey Arts.

Writers Theatre of New Jersey, in partnership with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, offer Poetry Out Loud In-School Residencies. Professional poets and performing artists will work with students and classroom teachers on a curriculum designed to enhance the understanding and appreciation of poetry through performance.

The emphasis on performance skills makes these residencies a perfect component in a school’s preparation for a Poetry Out Loud Competition. Classroom teachers are encouraged to participate, and to look at the residency as a professional development opportunity.

To learn more and to fill out an application:  NJ Poetry Out Residencies 

NJPOL makes it easy to hold a school competition. Registration is through an online form at the NJPOL website Get Involved Page.

Once registered, schools receive a contest package that contains all the information needed to run the contest.

The National Poetry Out Loud Program provides additional resources. All competitions, from the classroom level to the national finals, all operate in the same way, and POL provides online forms and guidelines. The National Poetry Out Loud site.

14. POL Beatrice and Sarah

Once a school has chosen a school representative, the winner must be registered by the school at the NJ POL website.

Along with basic information, the school must register the three poems (as well as the order) the winning student will recite at the regional contest. Once the poems and order of recitation is registered, they cannot be changed prior to the regional contest.

Schools and students are then contacted by the Regional Partners, who provide all the logistics and information for the Regional Contest.

Depending on the number of students participating at the regional level, there may be an elimination round after the second set of poems are recited. Students must prepare three poems, but should choose the order of their poems with the understanding they may not recite all three.

Each Region selects two students to participate in the State Finals. All regional winners will automatically become part of the NJPOL Mentoring Program. For more information, click on the Mentoring Project tab on this page, or go to NJPOL website.

You can register at the NJPOL Website here.

The NJPOL Mentoring Project provides a mentor for all regional winners. Mentors are professional poets and performers who have a deep understanding of how to evoke a poem in a public setting. Mentors meet with the students twice; at their schools, and then in a day-long group session held at a central location (see Schedule Tab).

The Mentors will be available to the student on the day of the State Final, and the Mentor of the State Champion will travel to the National Finals to provide further guidance, if needed.

On the Mentoring Project Group Meeting Day, teachers of the students can partake of a day-long Professional Development Workshop led by a professional poet/performer. Professional Development credits are available through Writers Theatre of New Jersey.

To learn more about the Mentoring Project, go to the NJPOL Website.

Regional winners register to participate in the State Finals. Again, the winners must prepare three poems (can be the same poems they used in the Regional Contest), and once these poems and the order of recitation are registered, they cannot be changed.

All winners recite for two rounds, after which a group with the highest scores is chosen to participate in the third round. A winner and runner-up are selected after the third round. Only the winner travels to the National Finals.

For more information on the State Finals, go to the NJPOL website.

The winning student travels to the National Finals in Washington, DC, where they compete for a first prize of $20,000 and an additional $5,000 for their school to purchase poetry books. The second and third place winners receive $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.

Representatives from NJPOL, including the Mentor who worked with the winner prior to state finals, attend with the State Finalist.

National POL Website

The schedule for the 2016-17 NJPOL Program

These dates can also be found on the NJPOL Website in the Important Dates section.

(Note that some dates have already passed)

November 2017
18th | Deadline for schools to register for NJPOL

January 2017
20th | Deadline to register the NJPOL School Champion for regional competitions.

February 2017
Regional Competition Dates (note snow dates):
Region 1 (Camden): Tuesday, February 16th. Snow Date: Tuesday, February 14th
Region 2 (Levoy): Wednesday, February 15th. Snow Date: Tuesday, February 21st
Region 3 (Two River): Tuesday, February 7th. Snow Date: Tuesday, February 14th.
Region 4 (Mayo): Monday, February 13th. Snow Date: Monday, February 27th.
Region 5 (SOPAC): Wednesday, February 7th. Snow Date: Wednesday, February 22nd.
Region 6 (BergenPAC): Thursday, February 23rd. Snow Date: Tuesday, February 28th.

March 2017
TBA | NJPOL State Finals – location to be determined

April 2017
24th-26th | 2017 Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington, DC

The NJPOL and the National POL websites have poetry choice criteria, but keep the following in mind:

  • Regardless of how many poems you recited in a classroom or school competition, you must have three poems to participate at the Regional, State, and National Competitions.
  • All poems must be chosen from either the National POL printed anthology, or from the National POL website. If you are choosing poems from the National website, note that the national contest will remove poems from competition from time-to-time. You must check back at the website after September 1 to make sure the poem you have chosen is allowed in competition. All poems in the printed POL Anthology are allowed as of this writing.
  • Of the three poems:
    • One poem must be 25 lines or fewer
    • One poem must be written before the 20th Century (prior to 1900).
    • A single poem can be used to meet both requirements.
  • Make sure you understand the judging criteria (on the National POL website). Along with the judges who are looking at your performance, there is a specific judge who looks at accuracy. The contest expects the poems to be recited letter perfect, points are deducted from scores if they are not. This also goes for titles and epigraphs in poems. The epigraph must be recited as part of the poem.
  • Degree of difficulty is no longer scored directly in performance, but is taken into account in a general score. See the national website for further guidance on this.

Previous State Champions and their placement at National Finals.

Year Name National Rank School Location
2016 Celeste Sena TBD Dr. Ronald E. McNair Academic High School Jersey City
2015 Beatrice Dimaculangan Semi-finalist Jonathon Dayton HS Springfield
2014 Natasha Vargas Third Place Lawrenceville HS Lawrenceville
2013 Kavita Ova Finalist The Peddie School Hightstown
2012 Kristin Tsuo Honorable Mention The Lawrenceville School Lawrenceville
2011 Clarissa Lotson West Orange HS West Orange
2010 Shamsuddin Abdul-Hamid Arts High School Newark
2009 Ijeoma Egekeze Piscataway HS Piscataway
2008 Allison Strong National Finalist Union Hill HS  Union City
2007 Naja Selby National Finalist Arts High School Newark
2006 Teika Chapman Trenton HS Trenton

For more information on NJ Poetry Out Loud, please contact:

Kay Potucek
New Jersey Poetry Out Loud State Coordinator
Phone: (609) 474-0529

Danielle Bursk
Program Officer, Theater and Visual Arts
Phone: (609) 633-1184

James Devivo
Director of Education
Writers Theatre of New Jersey
Phone: (973) 514-1787 x14

John Pietrowski
Artistic Director
Writers Theatre of New Jersey
Phone: (973) 514-1787 x10