Iowa Arts Council - Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Poetry Out Loud

About Poetry Out Loud

Watch for updates on the 2014 Poetry Out Loud Contest coming in Fall 2013

Iowa’s Poetry Out Loud School Champions receive value from:
- Having more confidence on stage and learning to over-come performance nerves.
- Fellowship among other Iowa students who appreciate poetry.
- The knowledge and understanding of poetry beyond the words.
- Having a poem memorized that I will carry for life.

“Poems are the most beautiful and useful language… By learning poems you really are keeping the very best of English expression and you have it to pull out when you need it.” –Former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan on the Poetry Out Loud audio guide.

POL: General Information


- To encourage the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance
- To help high school students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about our literary heritage

Poetry Out Loud Structure

Program Overview:

Recitation and performance are major new trends in poetry. There has been a recent resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of hip-hop music. Poetry Out Loud builds on that momentum by inviting the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theatre into the high school English classroom.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with State Arts Agencies to support Poetry Out Loud , which encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance.

Poetry Out Loud uses a pyramid structure that begins at the classroom level; implementing the POL curriculum into the classroom and then a classroom competition. Classroom winners advance to the school-wide and/or regional-wide competition, then to the state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals.
Iowa’s state champion will receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete for the national championship. The Iowa champion’s school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school library. At the National Finals, a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends will be awarded as prizes.

Poetry Out Loud curriculum materials include print and online poetry anthologies, a teacher’s guide to help instructors teach recitation and performance, an audio CD featuring distinguished actors and writers, promotional and media guides, and a comprehensive Website. Hard copies of all materials are free for schools participating in the official program. Curriculum materials are also available for download on the Iowa and National Poetry Out Loud Website. Schools not involved in the official contest are welcome to use the online materials, without participating in the state or national competition.

If you are an educator interested in participating in the official program, please contact the Iowa Arts Council at

The Poetry Out Loud State Competition for Iowa will be held in early March. Following the state finals, the National Semifinals and Finals will be held in Washington, DC, in April or May. You must register to be an official participant. To learn more or to register to receive POL teacher materials, contact the Iowa Arts Council at

For more information regarding the National Poetry Out Loud program, visit

POL: Teachers Information

Participating in Poetry Out Loud is easy and the Iowa Arts Council can help guide you through the process. Here are the basic steps to follow:
Step 1. Register to participate in Poetry Out Loud Iowa.
Step 2: IAC will send you a complete teacher resource packet.
Step 3. IAC will contact you to arrange a poetry workshop in your school. We'll handle contracts, payment and other details directly with the poet.
Step 4: GO! Implement POL in your classroom. See curriculum provided below.
Step 5: Check this Web site often for updates and more information.
Step 6: Hold your school competition!

- Register to participate in Poetry Out Loud Iowa.
- IAC will send you a complete teacher resource packet.
- IAC will contact you to arrange the poet's workshop in your school.
- IAC will contract with the poet and manage payment and details.
- Implement POL in your classroom. Check out the curriculum provided below.
- Hold your school competition using the resources provided.

Annual Dates to Remember


November 1

Deadline to register school competition

February 14

Deadline for student registration for state competition


State competition


National finals in Washington D.C.

Dates subject to change

Important Teacher Aids:

Poetry Out Loud Suggestions Poetry Out Loud Suggestions

Poetry Selection for Competition

Contest Resources for Teachers

Curriculum, Classroom Resources and More

Mrs. Biechler's Story City Adapted POL Lesson Plans, Mrs. Biechler’s

Iowa Poetry Out Loud, Jen McClung

"Metaphor, Microphones, Poetry Out Loud!" Curriculum, Dan Troxell

NEA POL Classroom Curriculum

Classroom Resources

NCTE Standards 

Classroom Winner Certificate

National Poetry Out Loud: Teachers Guide 2011-2012

National Poetry Out Loud Web Site

    Required Paperwork to Participate in Iowa POL
POL: Partner Information/Lead Contacts



Check back in Fall 2013 for updates or e-mail: for information

IAC POL Poets Roster

Martin Andrews

Jumi Bello

Martin Andrews is an actor, performer and teacher. He has performed throughout the country and taught at both the k-12 and University level for the last 10 years. He is one of the founders of Working Group Theatre and serves as its Producing Director. Martin is also the creator and director of Was the Word, a monthly spoken word, poetry and music series in Iowa City. He is certified teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework, a method of voice training used in Acting Schools and Conservatories across the country, and served as the Co-Director of Freedom and Focus: First International Fitzmaurice Voicework Conference in Barcelona, Spain. Martin has explored poetic language on stage in roles ranging from Oedipus in Oedipus Rex to Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream and in the plays of Suzan Lori Parks, Charles Mee, and Tony Kushner. He is an MFA Graduate of The University of Iowa.

Jumi Bello

Jumi Bello

Jumi Bello began writing poetry at an early age, starting in middle school with poetry competitions, she moved on to organizing open mics and poetry slams in her high school. She worked at City at Peace: a non-profit youth led organization which uses the performing arts as a vehicle to promote social change by teaching non-violent conflict resolution and cross cultural understanding. After spending eighteen years in the city of Washington DC, Jumi wanted a change of scenery and decided to attend Grinnell College out in the prairie lands. During her first year of college, she started performing slam poetry at her school's monthly open mics, founded the College's first slam poetry club and published her first book of poetry: I WomaN, gRL LUV MACHINE. Copyright and everything! She manages arts events in her school's underground cafe where open mics are held and is working on her second collection of poetry for publication. Other things to be worked upon: her BA in Sociology and concentration in Latin American Studies. Other things to be written down: absolutely everything counts, dude. Every single word.

Jeanne Emmons

Jeanne Emmons
Briar Cliff University
3303 Rebecca St.
Sioux City, IA 51104
Jeanne Emmons' third book The Glove of the World (2006)  won the Backwaters Press Reader's Choice award in 2006.  She has two other collections of poetry:  Baseball Nights and DDT ((Pecan Grove Press, 2005) and Rootbound (New Rivers Press 1998, winner of the Minnesota Voices Competition). She won the James Hearst Poetry Award in 2005. Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly, The American Scholar, South Carolina Review, North American Review, River Styx, and many other journals.  She is Professor of English at Briar Cliff University and poetry editor of the Briar Cliff Review.
Born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, she received her doctorate in English from the  University of Texas. Currently, she lives in McCook Lake, South Dakota with her husband, Adam Frisch. They have two children


Raven Garland

Raven Garland

Raven Garland is an active performer and teacher of music, poetry and eurythmy. She holds a Bachelor and Master Degree in Music from the University of Massachusetts and an Artist Diploma from the Eurythmy School of Spring Valley New York. Raven is a long time advocate for the arts in everyday life. She has extensive experience performing as a past member of the Eurythmy Spring Valley Threefold Ensemble, a puppeteer for the New England Marionette Opera Theater, pianist, poet and eurythmist. Her aim is to bring poetry to into the lives of everyone she meets in living, artistic and accessible ways.


Idris Goodwin

Idris Goodwin
Idris Goodwin is a playwright, poet, essayist and performer. His genre-defying, hip hop influenced work for page and stage earned him awards from National Endowment for the Arts, The Ford Foundation, The Hip Hop Theater Fest and The Illinois Arts Council. His play How We Got On was featured in the 2011 National Playwrights Conference at The Eugene O'Neill Center. His critically acclaimed Braising was featured in the 2005 NNPN New Plays Showcase at Stanford, while his hip hop and spoken word recordings earned praise from The New York Times and National Public Radio. What Is They Feedin' Our Kids?, Idris' most popular spoken word poem, aired on HBO's Def Poetry and The Discovery Channel's Planet Green. His original poem Rhyme Time will be featured on the 2011-2012 season of Sesame Street. These Are The Breaks, his debut collection of essays, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A highly sought artist-educator, Idris will teach playwrighting at Northwestern University in 2012.


Kim Groninga

Kim Groninga
Kim Groninga teaches English classes at the University of Northern Iowa and is a published poet and nonfiction writer. She is also the nonfiction editor of North American Review. Her first book of poems, Other Things that Grow, was released by Final Thursday Press in 2010. Kim served as a state judge for the 2010 Iowa POL contest in Des Moines.

Residency: Will work with teacher and school to develop.


Yvette Zarod Hermann

Yvette Zarod Hermann, Theatre Educator
Yvette is an actor, poet, and spoken word artist. She is also an Iowa-certified Master Educator of English and an Iowa Arts Council Rostered Teaching Artist. The power of poetry, she believes, is increased by thoughtful oral interpretation. She is a huge fan of Iowa's Poetry Out Loud national recitation contest because it provides a powerful and visceral experience that converts "reluctant" readers and writers into reflective and empowered performers.

Residency: I am interested in teaching single workshops or a longer residency. I am available M-W-F, both days and evenings, through June of 2012. I love visiting schools and classrooms; students are comfortable in familiar surroundings and teachers get to take a much-needed break and simply enjoy the talents of their students. I am also available for poetry readings or to facilitate student poetry slams. I can work with the classroom teacher to develop an appropriate workshop based upon the teacher's goals for student learning.

These workshops can be designed for one class session or for a longer residency:
1. Choose Your Beast: a survey of poetry that encourages students to find a poet whose voice resonates with them. Highly interactive.
2. The Poet's Voice: an introduction to oral interpretation, dramatization and "spoken word" poetry. Highly interactive.
3. Found Poetry: Yvette works with a teacher-selected text (fiction or nonfiction) to help develop a deeper understanding of themes and concepts by crafting poetry using the text as a source. Highly interactive.


Phil Hey

Phil Hey
Phil Hey has been writing and teaching at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City since 1969, and is now a professor in the English/Writing Department. He received a B.A. in English at Monmouth College in 1964 and an M.F.A. at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop in 1966. He also studied creative writing under Gwendolyn Brooks at the University of Wisconsin. In 1992 he won Briar Cliff's Duff Award for the Pursuit of Excellence, and in 1998 he was given the Literacy Award for college English teachers by the Iowa Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts.

Published in numerous magazines and anthologies, Phil is the author of six collections of poetry: In Plain Sight, Reorganizing the Stars, Plain Label Poems, A Change of Clothes, Ballads & Songs, How it seems to me and St. Francis, a collection of poems. His poem Route 39 south of Pittsville won a Rainmaker Award from Zone 3 magazine.

Residency: Usually single days (or parts), generally during school hours; classes on writing, reading aloud, Iowa poetry, others on request.


Jessica Laser

Jessica Laser
Jessica Laser is an MFA candidate in poetry, Iowa Arts Fellow, and Creative Writing Instructor at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. She has a B.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, where she also trained in theater and performed in numerous productions. Outside of Brown, she has an extensive theater background including a month-long stint training in Shakespeare at LAMDA in London, a physical theater intensive at The Stella Adler Studio, Tisch, NYC. Most recently, she's been leading University of Iowa undergraduates in Anne Bogart's Viewpoints acting training and is at work on her MFA thesis, a collection of poems. She believes the work of poetry and the work of theater intersect in recitation--if you speak a poem, you can begin to understand it as a human utterance, something that comes from a body, even yours, even now. She looks forward to working from the outside in--making deeper literary understanding possible through the more physical work of engaging rhythms/vowels/consonants/words with mouth and breath.

Residency: Will work with teacher and school to develop.


Sean LewisSean Lewis
Sean Lewis has won numerous awards, including the Kennedy Center's Rosa Parks Award, the Smith Prize, the William Inge Fellowship, the Barrymore Award and Central Ohio Critic's Circle Award. He is also a contributor to NPR'S This American Life.

Residency: Personal poetry and discovering the Illest (ie. Best) Version of You or "MY LIFE IS WORTH WRITING ABOUT." This can be a single day or multiple day workshop. We start using list poems to get the kids to realize how their everyday experience is worthy of verse, we implement lessons from hip hop and slam poetry to connect the language to its spoken roots and encourage and foster confidence through the performance of one's own work. This can be a day- or week-long workshop.


James Longley

James Longley
James Longley is a poet from rural Ohio. He holds an MFA in poetry from The University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and currently serves as Coordinator of Teaching Assistants for the Workshop. He is co-editor of the literary magazine LVNG. Longley's chapbook "[Heptagon]" was a finalist for the Ahsahta Press Chapbook Contest.

James Longley is a poet living in Iowa City, Iowa. He is interested in visiting the classrooms of high school English teachers who are participating in Poetry Out Loud: the National Poetry Recitation Contest. Mr. Longley has lead classes on poetry for all ages and experience levels from 5th grade up through college undergraduates. He would be happy to work with students at any stage in their involvement with Poetry Out Loud, from mild curiosity about the contest to deep commitment to fine-tuning the performance and preparing to compete.




Dora Malech

Dora Malech
Dora Malech's poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Best New Poets, and Poetry London, among other publications. She is the author of two collections of poems, Say So (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011) and Shore Ordered Ocean (Waywiser Press, 2009). She has given poetry readings all across the US and abroad. She has been the recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, a Writer's Fellowship at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy, a Glenn Schaeffer Poetry Award and more. She earned a BA in Fine Arts from Yale University and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has taught at the University of Iowa, Victoria University (New Zealand), Augustana College (Rock Island, Ill.) and elsewhere. In 2012, she will serve as visiting faculty at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. She lives in Iowa City where she coordinates the Iowa Youth Writing Project, a language arts outreach program. She is passionate about inspiring and empowering individuals through language arts, literature, and creative thinking.

Residency: I'm flexible, and would be happy to work on anything from a full class residency to a one-time visit in or out of school time hours. I'd be happy to give a poetry reading and/or implement a reading/writing/performance workshop. I'm also happy to work with teachers and schools to adapt a workshop to fit the particular students' needs. Rather than limit the possibilities to one workshop description, here are just a few of the past workshops I have led:

"Motion in Poetry: Exploring How Poems 'Move' and How They Move Us" "Finding Your Feral Mind: Wildness and Freedom in Poetry" "Poetic Traditions and Poetic Subversions" "Lyric to Narrative: A Poetic Spectrum" "Meter and Rhyme, Rhythm and Music: A Prosody Workshop" "Accessing Poetry's Incantatory Roots"


Jennifer Pytleski

Jennifer Pytleski
Jennifer Pytleski is a professional teaching artist specializing in Educational Theatre workshops in classrooms and communities. She received her undergraduate performance theatre BFA degree from Drake University and her Masters from New York University. Jennifer is also a National Theatre Institute alumnus (1999). While completing her Masters, she was able to work abroad in England, Brazil and Ireland. During 2009-2010, she toured with a Children's Theatre in Education troupe all across northern Italy. After acting and teaching out east for many years, Jennifer returned to Iowa in October 2010.

Her work with students focuses on speech, literacy, and 21st century skills. These skills are developed using a variety of theatre tools that aid in presentation and writing confidence. The theatre tools used for poetry, play-writing, and storytelling encourage students to make a personal connection with the material they are working with.

Residency: "The Backwards and Forwards of Poetry Presentation." Sessions will be structured around a 45-90 minute lesson outline with additional sessions lead by the teaching artist. If classroom time only allows for one session, I can provide lesson guides for the teacher and class to continue their progress. We will look at the poet's life, choice of style, and slowly move to the student presenting it. Once we have an understanding of the author's intent, we will work on personalizing it for the student. This includes vocal work, poise, breath and memorization. During the workshops, students will be encouraged to give each other constructive feedback so they can also experience being in the judge's seats.


Daron Richardson

Daron Richardson, Spoken Word Artists
Daron V. Richardson is a native Iowan-born in Iowa City, raised in Des Moines, IA. He is a graduate of Roosevelt High School and Iowa State University (Integrated Studio Arts). Richardson is a visual artist by training and uses performance poetry as an alternate means of expression and connection. Richardson has been a long-time Say What! Poetry contributor and appeared recently in a charity performance with the Say What! Poets for Culture Inc./Home for My Peeps. He has also appeared in performances: Fresh Breath Poetry "Off Paper," Lenny's Poetic Soul Revival and "Entering the College Zone," presented by the NBCDI.


Heather Roberts

Heather Roberts
Heather Roberts was born on in Chicago and went to high school at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep where she was heavily involved in the creative writing department's production of the school's first literary magazine, Inhale and also organized Exhale monthly open mics. Heather moved to Iowa in 2005, where she pursued her Bachelors in Special Studies in Performance Arts from Cornell College in 2009. At Cornell, she created a slam poet team - "Lyrically Inclined" - and directed the play, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" by Ntozake Shange. In August 2010, she starred in Breath of Encouragement's The Wiz as the Tinman. That same month, she started her business, Byrd's World, to bring her talent and voice to the state of Iowa.

Residency: Will work with teacher and school to develop.


Renee Sans Souci

Renee Sans Souci
With her Native American heritage and a degree in education, Renee Sans Souci combines her life experiences to create a process that helps students engage in their own cultural identities. By introducing interrelatedness, she creates an atmosphere for students to honor other cultural viewpoints through creative writing and spoken word. Renee is currently a Teaching Artist in residence at Umonhon Nation Public School (Omaha, Neb.) through the LIED Center for Performing Arts in partnership with the Kennedy Center and was recently selected as a member of the Nebraska Arts Council Teaching Artist Roster: Artists in Schools and Communities. As an educator, she is designing a language survival school based on Native philosophy and worldviews. Her hope is that students' learning will be enhanced through the teachings of the tribal circle and will gain a fuller understanding of their relationship to the Earth and Sky. She is available to present on topics related to Indian Education, Native Cultural Issues, Native Science, and storytelling.

Residency: Will work with teacher and school to develop.


Mason Scisco

Mason Scisco
Mason Scisco is currently working toward his M.F.A. in Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He received his undergraduate education at Cornell University, where he majored in architecture. He participated in Poetry Out Loud during its first year of existence and performed in the Kentucky State Finals. Mason is a former national finalist in speech competitions and has spent several years coaching speech performance at the high school and college levels. He looks forward to working with students to develop their understanding of poetry through performance.

Residency: For the purposes of Poetry Out Loud, I am interested in discussing not only how poetry can be performed but also how poetry is performance. That is, when it's written, poetry makes a physical object out intangible ideas through images, line breaks, rhythms, sound patterns, and other devices. For POL, the challenge is to take this performance of words on the page and translate it into a performance for the human body.


Mary Swander, Iowa Poet Laureate

Mary Swander

Mary Swander is the current Poet Laureate of the State of Iowa. Swander is the author of numerous books of poetry, non-fiction and drama. Her most recent book of poetry is called The Girls on the Roof which she has adapted to the stage with puppeteer Monica Leo from the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre.

She has been the recipient of major awards including the Whiting Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Award. Swander is a Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University.



Dan Troxell

Dan Troxell
Dan Troxell is a writer, poet, member of the Iowa Poetry Association, Director of Young Poets Night and host of Children's Story Night (performance seminars for kids) who has been performing and hosting monthly poetry events in local venues for the last seven years in Des Moines. He has assisted in various capacities with the Iowa Poetry Out Loud program since 2007 and has conducted seminars in schools in Des Moines and Mason City. He hosts poetry residencies that are a dynamic, vibrant, learning adventure through verse.

Residency: "Bringing Down the House: Create a Standing Ovation with Your Performance!" Timing, pacing, negative space, and expanding the room with your voice are all characteristics of a winning Poetry Out Loud performance. In this residency and combined coaching sessions you will be given the tools and techniques to bring down the house of your own performance, allowing you to find your "out loud" voice that will have your audience jumping to their feet! Available for 1-hour residencies; I can also combine this with a performance. Middle School or High School.


Tracy White

Tracy White
Tracy not only writes his own poetry, but also presents it to his audiences through performance. As an artist on the Iowa Arts Council's Teaching Artists Roster, he enjoys sharing his experience with students and routinely provides residencies and workshops where students learn about writing and presenting poetry.

Residency: Will work with teacher and school to develop.


Diana Wooley

Diana Wooley
Diana Wooley is the Director of Education for the LAMB School of Theatre and Music in Sioux City where she teaches The Music Class, Broadway Babies, Musical Theatre Troupe, private voices, and class voice. She prides herself on making every effort to see that each meeting with a student is productive and moves him or her forward. She is constantly pushing herself to provide new and exciting experiences for her students. Although Diana prides herself on the artistic excellence of her students, she also focuses on reaching "the whole person" through providing an exciting, safe, motivating and challenging environment. Her desire is to help inspire confident, creative, thinking, empathetic citizens who will continue to create or support art throughout their lives.

Residency: Will work with teacher and school to develop.

POL: Students

Getting Started

Find a poem, watch great recitation tips from judges:

How well do you understand your selected poem? What was the poet's intent? Google your poet and poem:

See past POL winners perform:

What are the rules?

A message from Iowa's 2010 POL Champion:

"Poetry Out Loud was one of the greatest experiences of my high school years; poetry study and recitation will remain a major personal interest throughout my life as a result. I take with me a deeper appreciation for poetry in general, and fully realize how much power there is in the manner by which each word is spoken. I also acquired skills to present myself more effectively, simply by interacting with brilliant kids from throughout the nation."

POL: State Finals Information

State finals are held every year in March in Des Moines. The event is free and open to the public. Check back for updates on the 2014 POL competition.

National finals are held every year in April during National Poetry Month in Washington, D.C.
Read more about National Finals: