Jean-François-Prosper Guérin, La Liseuse, 1875-1939

Concours de récitation poétique: General Information

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 ( for information on location and directions.

Songs, skits, speeches: Only recitations of literary poems are eligible for competition and prizes. However, we also welcome the performance hors concours of songs, skits, speeches, etc. to entertain the audience in between divisions as judges confer; this can be done instead of or in addition to entering the recitation contest.

Updated 2/22 Students' own poems: This year, subsequent to requests, we will allow students to read their own poems. As only a few students chose to do this, they will compete in their regular divisions, and as always, additional prizes may be awarded at the discretion of the judges.

Directions and parking: click here.

Updated Flyer: This year's flyer can be downloaded here.


Updated 2/22 Our 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, an AATF-SoCal grand prize winner including a week's pass to the COLCOA film festival plus a gift card, and gift cards for additional prize winners.

We are also extremely grateful to our business and community sponsors:

Prizes donated by these sponsors include a $50 gift certificate donated by Taix French Restaurant, two tickets to a play at A Noise Within, and books from the French Consulate's Mission for Higher Education, Arts, and Language.

Students are divided into divisions in order that they may compete fairly. There will be at least one winner in each division with three or more participants from different schools; other prizes will be awarded based on judges' evaluations of meritorious performances.

Concours de récitation poétique: Deadlines

Space 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.

Concours de récitation poétique: Divisions and Schedule

Updated 2/22 Students will read in order of level. The following start times are approximate and will depend on the number of participants registered. As the field is relatively small, we will award all prizes at the end; the entire contest is expected to conclude around 1 pm. College students should arrive no later than 11:30 am, to be safe.
    Beginning at 9:30 am
  1. French 2 high school students
  2. French 3 high school students
  3. French 4 high school students
  4. French 5 / AP high school students
  5. *High school students who are near-native or heritage speakers will compete with their level*
    Judges' consultation on high school prizes

    Beginning at approximately 11:30-12:00
  6. Beginning college students
  7. Intermediate college students
  8. Judges' consultation on college prizes

    Awarding of prizes
*Teachers are responsible for informing me if any high school student is a heritage, near-native, or native speaker; near-native/native students cannot compete for prizes against non-native students. As we do not have enough students to field a separate heritage-speaker division, these students will compete with their level in school; however, if the judges determine that their level is of near-native-speaker level, they can be considered only for special awards by judges and any general prize drawings.

Updated 2/22 Individual level start times: Progress through each division cannot be predicted with exactitude as it depends on how fast students read, if there are no-shows, etc. Generally, we get through about 15 students per hour. We have 47 registered participants; French 4/5/AP students will not start earlier than 10:45 am. 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. Be sure to check the "Directions/Parking" link to see where to park and how much time to allot to get there on time.

Judging Criteria

Students 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 students

There are many ways to prepare your students to participate in the poetry contest. For example: For some sample classroom activities and techniques for using poetry in high school classes, download my presentation on "La poésie en cours de lycée" from the MCLASC 2013 Jamboree.

Choosing a poem

Most 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 2018 Theme

Students 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. The first sections contain well-known poems that are perennial favorites, for intermediate or advanced students; the last section offers some poems suggested as part of this year's theme, Le monde contemporain. Any literary poem originally written in the French language may be recited for competition. The competition excludes songs, poems translated from another language, and other forms of recitation such as speeches, but students may perform these as explained above.

All of the poems listed here are lovely in recitation and highlight the sonority of the French language. *The starred poems are chosen most frequently; students wishing not to recite the same poem as several others are advised to avoid them. 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 can be delivered beautifully by students at any level.

Classic poems for intermediate students, listed chronologically *These poems, though lovely, are chosen very frequently. You may wish to recite one of them anyway, if it speaks to you! Other poems in this category are Prévert's "Déjeuner du matin" and La Fontaine's "Le Renard et le Corbeau."

Classic poems for advanced students, listed chronologically 2018 Theme: Le Monde Contemporain
This year, we are highlighting lesser-known Francophone poets of the late 20th century or those currently working, especially from Francophone Africa and the Antilles, whose poems examine solitude, politics, immigration, and other issues of modern society. Here are some poems that you may like (you may need to search within the linked page for the cited poem, and in doing so may find another you prefer!); others can be found in published anthologies. You can also backtrack from these specific links to the larger websites, to find other poems, biographies of these poets, and other poets that might interest you. As with all these lists, these are just suggestions of poems that I think may resonate with students. To find poems, the following sites are useful:

Previous Contest Information and Winners:

2017 Contest information and poems including links to winners and photos

Winners in the 2017 French Poetry Recitation Contest

2016 Contest information and poems

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.
2018 French Poetry Recitation Contest

The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
at Cal State LA,
in conjunction with MCLASC and AATF-SoCal,
and with the support of the
French Mission for Culture and Higher Education in the United States,

is pleased to announce our sixth annual
French Poetry Recitation Contest,
Saturday, February 24, 2018, 9:30 am - 2:00 pm
on the Cal State LA campus,
MUS 149.

The contest is open to high school, community college, and university students.