Poetry Out Loud

Owen_tbnBecause in that moment when you’re up on that stage, at that microphone, looking out over your audience, you have three things that mean way more than whatever the judges are going to put down on your score sheets: you have people’s attention; you have the words of a poem; and you have the chance to make those words come alive through you and in the minds of others.

Owen Elphick
2015 POL Connecticut 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.


Connecticut State Finals

October, November
& December
Teaching Artists in the Schools Workshops
 February 4, 2016 Deadline to register for School Champion Workshop
February 9, 2016 School Champion Workshop at Central Connecticut State University
 February 23, 2016 Southern Regional Semi-finals at the Palace Theater, Waterbury
March 1, 2016  Northern Regional Semi-finals at Cheney Hall, Manchester
March 15, 2016 Connecticut State Finals at Central Connecticut State University
May 2-4 2016 National Poetry Out Loud Championship in Washington, DC


 “I was thrilled to see the seriousness of the performances and the sure grasp of the nuanced meanings of the poems. Hearing poems performed so ably renewed my faith in the value of poetry.

Marilyn Nelson
Former CT Poet Laureate and 2015 POL Judge

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/

Born in Torrington, Connecticut, Ameen-Storm Abo-Hamzy (which translates as trustworthy) and his family lived in Beirut until the cruel reality of war in the Middle East forced them to return to their home in Connecticut. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry in the United States Army (Airborne) and served until he was injured in the line of duty and honorably discharged.  In 2003 he graduated with his Masters from Wesleyan University.  Evolution Ink, a not for profit organization founded by Ameen is dedicated to the proposition of peace as a realistic expectation.  Evolution Ink sponsors the Poetry Is Music© summer festival every year. He has been featured in articles in The New York Times, The Litchfield County Times, The Lakeville Journal, The Voice, and The Republican-American and in a host of local newspapers.

Email: ameenstorm_at_mac.com or ameen.storm_at_gmail.com

“Many students who’ve never given poetry a second thought or who shy away from public speaking now carry a poem in their hearts and a bit more confidence on stage.  Poetry Out Loud brings poetry alive for our students!

Denise Abercrombie
Teacher at E. O. Smith High School


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







Ben_smI 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 POL 2015 Connecticut State Champion – Owen Elphick of E. O. Smith High School!



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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