South Carolina Arts Commission

Poetry Out Loud

Janae Claxton and Ken May

Poetry Out Loud:
National Recitation Contest

Each year, the South Carolina Arts Commission partners with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation to bring the Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest to South Carolina high schools. The program seeks to foster the next generation of literary readers by capitalizing on the latest trends in poetry—recitation and performance.

In 2018, Janae Claxton of Charleston, posing above with then S.C. Arts Commission Executive Director Ken May, was the first South Carolina student to win the National Poetry Out Loud competition! (Photo credit: James Kegley/NEA.)  Read more …

Contest Structure

Cool swag!
Cash prizes!
An all-expenses paid trip to Washington!

All of these could be yours by participating in Poetry Out Loud South Carolina.

Yes, Poetry Out Loud South Carolina (POL SC) is on in 2021/2022. However, to ensure the safety and health of participating students and staff, POL SC regionals will be held virtually as a video submission-based competition. All videos will be sent to the S.C. Arts Commission and forwarded to the appropriate POL SC regional partner. Our regional partners will select judges to review and rate video submissions to determine finalists for competition at the state level.

Who can participate?

  • Poetry Out Loud SC (POL SC) welcomes participation from any enrolled student in grades 9 -12 who attend a public, private, Montessori, charter, or home school.
  • No student may be excluded from participating in Poetry Out Loud on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin.
  • For additional eligibility guidelines, please visit the Poetry Out Loud website.

What about those prizes?

There are prizes for students and their sponsoring organizations (e.g., schools, theatres, community organizations, libraries). Each winner at the state level receives $200 and an all-expenses paid trip (with an adult chaperone) to Washington to compete at the national finals. The state winner’s school/organization receives $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. The first runner-up in each state receives $100 and $200 for their school/organization. At the national finals, a total of $50,000 in awards and school/organizational stipends is awarded annually.

How do I sign up? How do I prepare to compete?

We can help! The evaluation criteria, requirements, and some tips are below, along with some FAQ’s. We also have this brief video with further information.


Statewide partners

Regional partners

  • Region 1 – Hub City Writers Project
  • Region 2 – College of Charleston School of Humanities and Social Sciences

2020/2021 State Finalists

Rather than be completely upended like so much else in the 2020/2021 school year, Coordinator Bonita Peeples arranged a competition with a different structure. In lieu of class or school competitions, students in grades 9-12 were invited to submit videos to be judged in twin regional competitions. Those regionals yielded four finalists each to compete in the virtual state finals:

Congratulations to these students for reaching the South Carolina Finals:

  • Emily Allison (Greenville High School in Greenville)
  • Meenakshi Balachandran (Calvary Christian School in Myrtle Beach)
  • Simone Cory (James Island Charter School in Charleston)
  • Teagan Domm (Academic Magnet High School in Charleston)
  • Anna Matson (Aiken High School in Aiken)
  • Pagelyn Smalls (Charleston County School of the Arts in Charleston)
  • Caleb Xiao (Spartanburg Day School in Boiling Springs)
  • Jazmine Vivas Young (Charleston County School of the Arts in Charleston)

Poetry Out Loud 2021/2022