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

Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a nationwide contest for high school students that encourages them to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. The Connecticut Center for the Book at Connecticut Humanities is pleased to coordinate the program in Connecticut in partnership with the Office of the Arts at the Department of Economic and Community Development.
The Poetry Out Loud contest follows a pyramid structure, starting at the classroom level with winners advancing to a school-wide competition, then to a regional and/or state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals.

What’s in it for your school?

  • A FREE program that engages students with great poetry.
  • An opportunity for students to master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.
  • Increased school spirit.
  • FREE teacher professional development
  • In-school workshops with experienced, professional poets and performance coaches.
  • PRIZES! The state champion receives a cash award and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington DC with an adult chaperon to compete in the national competition. His or her school also receives a cash award for the purchase of poetry books. Additional contests are available in the Connecticut competition.

In 2014, 170 Connecticut teachers worked with over 6,700 students to help them find the voice of a poem and, in the process, their own voices as well.

Question? Need for information? Contact Rachel at or 860.685.7590.

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.


“I like being able to show emotion and express myself without fear of judgment. When I see someone recite poetry, it feels like an honest glimpse into their soul. It makes me feel so much closer to people with whom I might not normally interact.”

Madelyn Teller
Bolton High School,
POL Champion, 2014

September 3 School registration opens
October 16 Professional Development Workshop for Teachers
October 17 School registration closes
November 12 Deadline for teachers to request teaching artist
TBD Teaching artists visit schools
TBD Teachers conduct POL activities in classrooms
January 30 School competitions completed
February 5 Deadline to submit School Champion names for state finals
TBD Northern Regional Finals
TBD Southern Regional Finals
TBD School Champion workshop
TBD Connecticut State Finals
April 27-29 National Finals in Washington, DC


School registration for Poetry Out Loud is closed.


“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 RushinKate 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.


Mariah Sage

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.


John Stanizzi

JStanizzi_100x150John 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.


Elizabeth Thomas

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)


Edwina Trentham

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:

“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 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

NEW Connecticut Poetry Out Loud Schools

Bristol Eastern High School
Canton High School
Connecticut River Academy
Farmington High School
Hamden High School
Hopkins School
Middletown High School
North Branford High School
Pathways Academy of Technology & Design
Pomperaug High School
RHAM High School
Robert E. Fitch High School
Stratford High School
Two Rivers Magnet School
Westhill High School
Wethersfield High School
Wilby High School
Watertown High School
Wooster School


Returning Schools

Avon High School
Bacon Academy
Bethel High School
Bolton High School
Branford High School
Choate Rosemary Hall
Classical Magnet School
Darien High School
E. O. Smith High School
East Windsor High School
Greenwich High School
Hartford Magnet Trinity Coll. Acad.
Joel Barlow High School
Lewis S. Mills High School Region 10
Mercy High School
Montville High School
Naugatuck High School
Newtown High School
Northwestern High School
Oxford High School
Ridgefield High School
Rockville High School
Staples High School
The Morgan School
The Renbrook School
Univ. High School of Science & Engineering
Wilton High School
Windsor High School

“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


Brianna Alessio, Bacon Academy
Emma Avery, Regional School District 10
Breana Del Gatto, Darien High School
Victoria Gibbs, Avon High School
Erin Gonyeau, Rockville High School
Benjamin Harlee, Greater Hartford
Classical Magnet School
Kimmy Kaster, Joel Barlow High School
Kathleen Kelly, Oxford High School
Nicholas Kerr, The Renbrook School
Stanley Kesilewski, Montville High School
Kirsten Liniger, Newtown High School
Elizabeth Ludanyi, Immaculate High School
Vivia Marshall, Hartford Magnet
Trinity College Academy
Liam McLean, E. O. Smith High School
George Menz, Staples High School
Ben Mueller, Windsor High School
Gabriell (Gabby) Nelson, Northwestern High School
Miranda Pepin, Choate Rosemary Hall
Eli Phelps, The Morgan School
Romana Pilepich, Bethel High School
Gabriela Resto, East Windsor High School
Amina Seidi, Univ. High School of
Science and Engineering
Tyus Southern, Wilton High School
Madelyn Teller, Bolton High School
Michaella Toledo, Mercy High School
Caroline Turner, Ridgefield High School
Precious Uwaya, Medical Professions
and Teacher Prepatory Academy
Talia Waxman, Greenwich High School
Jadelynn Ye, Branford High School