Poetry Out Loud - Students - Southwestern Illinois College

Virtual Submission Guidelines

Poem Selection

All poems must be selected from the Poetry Out Loud print or online anthology, which is updated every summer. View the official POL anthology for the current school year. Only versions of poems from the official anthology may be used in the contest.

Students must provide the titles and authors of their poems and the order in which they will be recited to the coordinator. Students may not change their poems or their order once submitted.

Make sure your videos follow the rules

For video submission contests, videos must not be edited, but students may record their recitations more than once and send their best recording for each recitation. 

Filming requirements:

  • Film with a horizontal orientation.
  • Face the camera so it captures your head to mid-torso (medium shot).
  • Each recitation should be filmed in one single shot from one static angle.
  • The sound and picture must be clear.
  • Videos cannot be edited. Do not add music, graphics, titles, virtual backgrounds, or computer animation.
  • Use of professional recording studios is prohibited.
  • For video submission contests, each recitation requires its own separate video.


  • Stand in front of a neutral background, if possible. Try to avoid wearing clothing in similar colors to the background.
  • Do not place light sources behind you to avoid being backlit.
  • Students may look directly into the camera, at a fixed spot, or at an imagined audience.
  • Make sure you are the only visible and audible person in the video.
  • Use a microphone, if possible. If the microphone is on the camera, position the camera close to you.
  • Start recording a few seconds before the recitation and stop recording a few seconds after the end.
  • Please name each file: StudentName_NameofPoem.
  • Examples of student filmed POL recitations can be found on the POL YouTube page.

Reminder – Recitation Requirements:

  • Students must begin by stating the title of the poem and the poet’s name, and the translator, if applicable.
  • A student’s own editorial comments before or after the poem are not allowed.
  • Poems must be recited from memory.


  • Please refer to the National Endowment for the Arts’ guide Resources to Help Ensure Accessibility of Your Virtual Events for People with Disabilities.
  • Review POL Accessibility Checklist – Venue & Event Promotion for planning recommendations for captioning and sign language interpreter vendors, alternate formats of materials, and communication of access accommodations. Reach out to participating schools for the Deaf and Blind prior to event planning to inquire about preferences.
  • Check the compatibility of your virtual platform for screen-reading software and captioning capabilities (do not rely on auto-generated captions and plan to work with a third-party). Avoid using only the chat feature for essential information that will not be said aloud. Reach out to accessibility@arts.gov for guidance.
  • Set communication rules at the start, speak slowly, and introduce yourself before speaking, which is also helpful for captioners and interpreters.
  • Research audio description vendors for live streamed competitions, in particular for participating schools for the Blind.
  • If an access accommodation is requested by a judge or a teacher who will be in a breakout room, make sure the captioner or interpreter is directly assigned to the requester.
  • To request accommodations, please contact your contest organizer or POL state coordinator

Set your stage

However you choose to record your virtual poem recitation we recommend setting your stage.

We recommend using the POL Zoom Background if you are recording within software like Teams or Zoom.

If you are recording from a phone or video camera we recommend setting your stage.

How to set your stage?

  • Make sure you are in landscape mode when recording
  • Make sure to record each poem separately
  • Spice up your stage by theming your surroundings to your poem theme. For example is your poem about a tree? Maybe record near a tree.
  • Please keep your submission family-friendly. No swearing. No mention of violence, drugs, or abusive material. Please wear modest clothing and make sure the background of your scene is clear of any inappropriate items.
  • Submission must maintain social distancing requirements.
  • Make sure not to use images that might be copyrighted. You must own all rights to the art or photos in the submission.
  • Please be safe.
  • HAVE FUN!!!


Poetry Out Loud begins at the classroom level. Winners advance to a school wide competition, then to a regional and/or state competition, and ultimately to the National Finals. Awards and placements are determined solely by the judges’ scores based on the Poetry Out Loud Evaluation Criteria (pages 13–16).


Each winner at the state level will receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip (with an adult chaperone) to Washington, DC, to compete at the National Finals. The state winner’s school will receive $500 for poetry materials. One runner-up in each state will receive $100; their school will receive $200 for the purchase of poetry materials.


A total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be given at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, including a $20,000 award for the National Champion. Awards are offered for the official contests conducted by the state arts agencies, the Poetry Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The awards do not apply to unofficial contests. Awards will be made in the form of lump sum cash payouts, reportable to the IRS. Tax liabilities are the sole responsibility of the winners and their families. The

Poetry Foundation provides and administers all aspects of the monetary prizes awarded in Poetry Out Loud.


Competitors will recite individually. The emcee should introduce students as they come to the stage to recite. It is the student’s job to identify the poem by accurately announcing both the title and the author, and, if necessary, the translator. (For example, “Future Memories” by Mario Meléndez, translated by Eloisa Amezcua.)

  • A student’s own editorial comments before or after the poem are not allowed.
  • Epigraphs included with the poem in the Poetry Out Loud anthology should be recited, and their omission will affect the accuracy score.
  • Footnotes included with the poem in the Poetry Out Loud anthology should not be recited, and their inclusion will affect the accuracy score.
  • Stanza numbers and dedications included with the original poem are optional, and their inclusion or omission should not affect the accuracy score.
  • Students must include the name of the translator, if applicable.
  • The poem must be delivered from memory.