Poetry Out Loud


We need math, science, engineering and technology to compete in the world econo­my, but we also need poetry to make the lives we live richer, deeper and ever open to new interpretations.

Nancy Weiss
Poetry Out Loud judge and CTH board member

Three cheers for Owen Elphick, Connecticut’s 2015 Poetry Out Loud State Champion!



Poetry Out Loud is a nationwide contest that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. Students who participate in Poetry Out Loud practice public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

Benefits of Poetry Out Loud to your school include:

  • Skill building for your students.
  • Free professional development workshops for teachers and library-media specialists.
  • Free workshops for students with professional poets and performance coaches.
  • Involvement in a statewide and nationwide program.
  • Prizes! Cash prizes, trophies and public recognition for your students and school.

Teachers customize the Poetry Out Loud program to best fit their school. Poetry Out Loud can be used in the classroom or as an extracurricular activity.

Poetry Out Loud is a partnership of the Connecticut Center for the Book at Connecticut Humanities, the Connecticut Office of the Arts at Department of Economic and Community Development, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation.



Poetry Out Loud has taught me that poems can change lives. It proved that there are people who are out there who know what I am going through, and their poems will always be there for me to help me in times of need.

Marissa Smoker
Branford High School,
2015 School Champion

Spring 2015
POL State Coordinator visits schools
August 2015
School registration opens
Fall 2015
POL State Coordinator visits schools
 Professional Development Workshops for Teachers
School Registrations closes
Teaching artists visit schools
Teachers conduct POL activities in classrooms
January 2016
School competitions completed
February 2016
School Champion Workshop
Regional Finals
March 2016
Connecticut State Finals
April 2016
National Finals in Washington, DC


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Teaching Artists

Each of my school visits was fabulous; I met so many terrific, dedicated teachers, and the kids…OH MY!!

John Stanizzi
Poet, POL Teaching Artist

Kate Rushin

Kate Rushin is an award-winning, CT poet/educator with training in theater and radio.  She has taught at Wesleyan University, The Oddfellows Youth Playhouse and The Greater Hartford Academy of The Arts where she was dramaturge for the production of “A Raisin in the Sun.”  Rushin has featured, twice, at The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival at The Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, where she is also an artist/instructor in The Hartford Poetry Outreach Program.  Rushin serves on The James Merrill House Committee in Stonington, CT, and has twice served as judge for CT Poetry Out Loud.
WEBSITE: http://katerushinpoet.com

MSage_100x150Mariah Sage is a professional actor and acting coach with twenty years of experience in performance. Mariah has taught acting and coached actors and presenters at the college level for years, including: Brown University, NYU/Tisch, and Hartford Stage.  She served as Director of the Theatre Program at Fairfield University, where she assisted professional guest directors on casting. In 2007, Mariah Co-Founded the professional theatre company, Theatre 4, in New Haven.  Mariah lives in New Haven with her husband and their young son. She also teaches acting and presentation skills to groups and individuals through her company Present & Perform. Mariah earned a BFA in drama at NYU/Tisch and an MFA in acting from Brown University.
WEBSITE: http://www.presentandperform.com/



John Stanizzi has delighted readers and listeners throughout New England and beyond the Northeast. He is the author of “Ecstasy Among Ghosts”, “Sleepwalking”, “Windows”, and “Dance Against the Wall”. His poetry has appeared in many publications. He has read at many venues throughout Connecticut. John has judged the Connecticut Poetry Out Loud Program, the 2011 Connecticut Book Award for Poetry, and the Sunken Garden Poetry Award for Adult Writers. He teaches English at Manchester Community College and Bacon Academy, where he also directed theater program for fifteen years.
WEBSITE: http://johnlstanizzi.com/

EThomas_100x150Elizabeth Thomas is a widely published poet, performer and educator. The author of two poetry collections and a book on writing, she has read her work throughout the United States and in 2009 taught ‘Poetry as Theatre’ in the United Arab Emirates at a women’s university. Much of her energy and time is devoted to designing and teaching writing programs for all ages. These programs promote literacy and the power of written and spoken word. As an outstanding advocate of youth in the arts, Elizabeth is a coach and organizer with Brave New Voices: International Youth Poetry Slam and Festival. She believes poetry is meant to be heard out loud and in person. (Only available in early December)
WEBSITE: http://upwordspoetry.com/

ETrentham100x150Edwina Trentham is professor Emerita of English at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, CT, where she continues to teach poetry and edit the poetry journal Freshwater, which will celebrate its fifteenth anniversary in 2014. She was also a visiting instructor in the graduate Liberal Studies Program at Wesleyan University.  Edwina has published poetry in a variety of journals and her first collection of poetry was published by Antrim House in 2004. She has been a featured reader at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival and Arts Café in Mystic. She was awarded a 2010 Solo Writers Fellowship by the Greater Hartford Arts Council and the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation for Public Giving. WEBSITE: http://www.edwinatrentham.com/


Poetry Out Loud was one of the most exciting, fulfilling, and proudest experiences in my life. I challenged me to accomplish more than I believe I ever could through practice and hard work…It gave me confidence that I hold with me to this day.

Erin Connolly
2011 Connecticut State Champion

PoetryOutLoud.org offers a great collection of teacher resources, including:

Teachers Guide
Tips for conducting Poetry Out Loud
Lesson plans and sample class schedules
Accessibility Information
NCTE Standards

2015 Finalists

I hope [the audience] takes away the joy that I felt in memorizing these poems. I hope they felt some of the emotions I felt reciting them. And I hope there’s something for THEM to remember in these poems.

Benjamin Harlee
Classical Magnet School Champ, 2014

Congratulations to the performers at the
2015 Poetry Out Loud State Finals:

Priya Swyden – Bacon Academy
Shami Khoshabo – Bethel High School
Camryn Chester – Choate Rosemary Hall
Own Elphick – E.O. Smith High School
Natalie Wallington – Greenwich High School
Gabrielle Colangelo – Joel Barlow High School
Emma Avery – Lewis S. Mills High School
Marcela Nelson – Northwestern High School
Cassandra Veltri – Oxford High School
Rachel Ramenda – Renbrook School
Callie McQuilken – Ridgefield High School
Erin Gonyeau – Rockville High School
Renee Weisz – Staples High School
Trevor Lily – Wilton High School
Julia Kelleher – Windsor High School

A job well done to the Regional Finalists who
represented their schools at the
2015 Regional Semi-Finals:

Zain Athar – Avon High School
Megan Zelesky – Bolton High School
Marissa Smoker – Branford High School
Angela Palas – Connecticut River Academy
Breana Del Gatto – Darien High School
Gabriela Resto – East Windsor High School
Sabrina Rostkowski – Farmington High School
Shanya Waitt – Mercy High School
Adiana Alajandro – Naugatuck High School
Caelan Ritter – Newtown High School
Kathleen Stango – Pomperaug High School
AriaRay Brown – RHAM High School
Andrew Tran – The Morgan School
Sarah Ingram – University High School of Science and Engineering
Nastasja Houghton – Westhill High School
Marquis Harris – Wilby High School
Daniel Michael – Wooster School

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