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Concours de récitation poétique: General Information2/23 UPDATE: Start times have been changed due to smaller-than-expected participation. High school levels will start at 10 AM. College levels will start at NOON. The website information is correct; the flyer has not been updated.
The French Poetry Recitation Contest is an annual event co-sponsored by the Modern Languages Department at Cal State L.A., MCLASC, the AATF-SoCal, and the French Mission for Culture and Higher Education in the United States. If you have participated before, welcome back! If it is your first time participating, please read carefully all the information on this page.
Contestants and observers: The contest is open to all high school and college French students in the Los Angeles area, subject to space and time limitations. Anyone may attend the contest as an audience member. Beginning students may wish to observe one year and compete the next. Family, friends, and Francophile community members are welcome! Contact Dr. Gretchen Angelo (email@example.com) for information on location and directions.
Songs, skits, speeches: Only recitations of literary poems are eligible for competition. However, we also invite individuals or groups to perform songs, skits, speeches, etc. in between divisions as judges confer; this can be done instead of or in addition to entering the recitation contest.
Directions and parking: click here.
Flyer: To download this year's flyer to post in your classroom, click here.
Prizes!The sponsoring organizations -- Cal State L.A. Department of Modern Languages and Literatures; MCLASC, the Modern and Classical Language Association of Southern California; and AATF-SoCal, the American Association of Teachers of French - Southern California Chapter -- have generously funded the contest including the venue, certificates for all participants, a grand prize for the college winner, and gift cards for second- and third-place winners. Additional prizes may be awarded as donated by local businesses and cultural organizations. The French Mission for Culture and Higher Education will award the main prizes, poetry anthologies to the lauréats in each division.
There will be at least one winner in each division with more than three participants; second- and third-place prizes as well as honorable mentions will be awarded on levels with sufficient numbers of participants and meritorious performances.
Concours de récitation poétique: DeadlinesSpace and time restrictions may limit the number of participants. In order to give students equal chances for participation and recognition, the following deadlines must be observed. High school students must be registered by their teachers; college students may register themselves individually or their professors may register them.
- As soon as possible, and preferably by Wednesday, February 17: Email the organizer (Gretchen Angelo, firstname.lastname@example.org) to register your school's participation. Indicate approximate numbers of students who wish to participate on each level. Unless we see a huge increase in preregistration compared to previous years, all students will be able to participate. Please make this number as precise as possible so that we can accurately predict the timeline. Also inform organizer of any students who wish to perform a song, skit, speech, etc.
- By Monday, February 22: Submit the exact names of contestants, as well as the poem each will read, so that the program and participation certificates can be prepared. You should receive a confirmation email within 24 hours, which you should check for accuracy.
Concours de récitation poétique: Divisions and ScheduleStudents will read in order of level, as follows:
Beginning at 10:00 am (updated time)
- French 2 high school students
- French 3 high school students
- French 4 / French AP high school students
- High school students who are native or heritage speakers* Judges' consultation and awarding of high school prizes
- Lower-division college students
- Upper-division college students Judges' consultation and awarding of college prizes
Beginning at 12:00 pm (updated time)
Note on awarding of prizes: We applaud those high school teachers who are able to attend the competition with their students. In order to limit their time commitment, this year we will award the high school prizes separately; high school students and teachers may wish to leave after this portion. We do however invite everyone to stay for the college competition, in order to give these contestants an audience for their efforts. We anticipate that the high school portion of the contest will conclude no later than 12:30 pm.
Note for college students: The new college start time of 12:00 was chosen to accommodate all those who have morning commitments. College students who planned to arrive at 12:30 may do so; we have sufficient college participation that the college level will certainly still be in progress at 12:30. If you arrive past the start of the college division, you will still be able to participate as long as you arrive before the end. Please do not enter the auditorium during a poem; wait until you hear applause before opening the door.
Note on refreshments/lunch: Due to the yearly increases in participation and the desire to complete the high school portion in the morning, we will no longer offer a free buffet during the contest. Cal State LA student clubs will have reasonably-priced refreshments such as pizza, Portos' potato balls, candy, and drinks available for purchase. Students are also welcome to bring their own lunches if they wish to remain for the afternoon portion.
Estimated start times: The start times for the overall high school and college divisions have been updated to reflect the size of the field; beyond that, the progress of each division depends on how many students participate, how quickly they read, and how many registered students fail to appear. Students who have not arrived by the completion of their division will not be allowed to compete, although they may still read their poem hors concours if they wish to do so. Students in French 4 might reasonably assume that they could arrive an hour or so past the competition start time, but exact start times for each division cannot be predicted. When all participants are registered as of February 22, estimated start times for the high school divisions will be sent to participating teachers, but these will of necessity be rough estimates.
Judging CriteriaStudents will be judged on diction, clarity, and expression. The following factors will be considered:
voyelles orales et nasales; e muet; semi-voyelles; consonnes; détente finale; R;
enchainement et liaisons; intonation et rythme
volume; contact visuel; gestes; présence; compréhension du texte; versification; créativité
Preparing your studentsThere are many ways to prepare your students to participate in the poetry contest. For example:
- Make poetry part of the curriculum;
- Model poems' reading for them, paying attention to all the items listed in the rubric
- Analyze the texts carefully so they have a good understanding of what they will be reading
- Give extra credit to students willing to participate, whatever their level of success
- Remind them that it looks good on college and scholarship applications
- Make sure they pick a text that matches their proficiency
- Have them practice in groups and individually
- Organize mock or runoff contests in the classroom
- Have students take turns judging each other's performances
- Make sure that the whole school is aware of your competition
Choosing a poemMost students choose to take a copy of their poem to the podium just in case, but delivery is vastly improved when the poem has been memorized through practice.
We recommend that high school and lower-division college students choose a 14-24 line poem; third- and fourth-year college students, if they wish, may select a longer poem, of 24-60 verses. The length of the poem is unimportant if the poem is well-delivered.
Advice to students: Choose a poem that you enjoy and that has some meaning for you. The better you understand your poem, the better your delivery will be, so you might want to search for a translation, a commentary, etc. You can also find youtube videos of poems; listen to a few versions of your chosen poem both to improve your pronunciation and to get a sense of how different deliveries change the impact of the poem. The lists below are given in rough chronological order, and are only examples of some of the best-known French poems and poets from each period. I have provided links to a number of different types of sites, from simple texts to commentaries and recitations with music and video.
Les Grands Classiques and 2016 ThemeStudents may choose any poem, and it is great to see the variety of poems chosen. These lists are intended for teachers and students who are not sure where to start. All of these poems are lovely in recitation and highlight the sonority of the French language. The second group of poems is recommended only for advanced students because of their length or complexity, but a longer poem is not automatically a better choice; the poems in the first group are classics that could be delivered beautifully by students at either level.
Classic poems for intermediate students, listed chronologically
- Ronsard: "A Cassandre" ("Mignonne, allons voir...")
- Chenier, "Sans parents, sans amis..."
- Nerval, "Fantaisie"
- Hugo, "Demain, dès l'aube"
- Baudelaire, "Invitation au voyage"
- Verlaine, "Ariette oubliée 3" ("Il pleure dans mon coeur")
- Rimbaud, "Sensation"
- Apollinaire, "Le pont Mirabeau"
- Louise Labé, Sonnet 8 ou 14
- DuBellay, "Heureux qui comme Ulysse ..."
- Hugo, "Exil"
- Lamartine, "La fenetre de la maison paternelle"
- Leconte de Lisle, "Solvet Seclum"
- Nerval, "Vers dorés"
- Baudelaire, "La chevelure"
- Aragon, "Les mains d'Elsa"
In past years I have offered links to poems on a specific theme, in order to give repeat contestants or teachers some ideas for new poems. Unfortunately, time constraints have prevented me from doing so this year. Students who wish to explore the vast body of French poetry could consult the following sites:
- Poésie française par Webnet: 6000 poems, searchable by author, "Random poem" button also available.
- Poetica.fr, poems organized by theme
- Poésie-française.fr, poems searchable by poet; a few specific themes and poets are featured
- Wheaton College, Vive Voix, poems searchable by poet or verse; all accompanied by audio files.
Previous Contest Information and Winners:2016 Program (corrected)
Winners in the 2016 French Poetry Recitation Contest
2015 Contest information and poems
Winners in the 2014 French Poetry Recitation Contest
2014 Contest information and poems
Winners in the 2013 French Poetry Recitation Contest
News Release about 2013 College Division Winner
Sponsored by the
Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Cal State LA in conjunction with
and The French Mission for Culture and Higher Education in the United States.