The Kentucky Arts Council has opened registration for the 2016-17 season of Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation contest sponsored by the arts council, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

In 2016, more than 317,000 students from every state in the nation participated in the competition, including Kentucky state champion Naomi Cliett of Elizabethtown, who represented Kentucky at the national finals in May.

The 2017 state championship will be March 7 at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort. The deadline for schools to register for the state competition is Sept. 15 to be eligible for the 2017 competition. American Sign Language interpreters will be provided at the state competition.

The competition begins at the classroom level, with each school determining its champion. Those champions go on to represent their schools at the state finals, and each state sends one finalist to the national competition.

“Poetry Out Loud is an important component of our arts education mission because it exposes students to great literature, allows them to work with some of Kentucky’s fantastic teaching artists, and lets the students interpret the poems and perform them on stage in front of family, friends and their peers,” said Lori Meadows, arts council executive director.

Teachers at many participating schools have lauded Poetry Out Loud, now in its 12th year, as an effective way to address Kentucky’s arts education standards. Participation in Poetry Out Loud is often cited in schools’ final reports as evidence for their Visual and Performing Arts Program Review, which is a state-mandated self-evaluation of a program’s educational effectiveness.

Larissa Haynes, who teaches English and advanced placement literature at Allen County-Scottsville High School, said preparing for Poetry Out Loud is often as surprising for her as it is for her students.

“It’s always interesting to see the students who do really well. Often it’s not the most confident, or the student that’s had great success with grades or the student who has gained acclaim through sports,” she said. “Sometimes it’s the quiet kids. It’s really a wonderful opportunity to see so many of those kids succeed who haven’t really been heard and certainly may not have been celebrated.

“That’s what I enjoy the most, seeing those surprises. The kids who get through this feel like they’ve accomplished something real.”

The winner of the state finals receives $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national championship. The state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up receives $100, with $200 going to his or her school library.

For more information about Poetry Out Loud in Kentucky, contact Jean St. John, arts council education director, at 502-564-3757, ext. 486; or

For a general overview of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest visit

The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, fosters environments for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts. The arts council is celebrating 50 years of service in 2016.

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