Learning Recitation

How to Use This Video

Watch these National Final recitations and evaluate the strengths (and weaknesses!) of each, according to Poetry Out Loud evaluation criteria. Discuss the merits of these performances, which ones the you like best and why and how the poems are different when read versus recited.

The Art of Recitation

What makes a performance compelling? Sometimes it’s hard to put into words exactly why you can’t take your eyes off a recitation. You’ll notice in each of these video clips that the students themselves become almost secondary to the language. Everything about the recitation draws you in to the language of the poem.

You’ll also notice that each student has profoundly internalized their poem. Discuss how you can tell that a competitor “gets” a poem. Are the clues found in body language, tone of voice, and/or the style of delivery?

Keep in mind that there is no definitive recitation of any one poem. While these videos are examples of poems that were recited well, each student will draw on their own experiences to create a unique interpretation. For this reason, it is important that students find poems that speak to them individually; these connections will be apparent in their recitations.

Please note: These poems were eligible at the time they were performed, but aren't necessarily still part of the contest.

  • Stanley Andrew Jackson

    Writ on the Steps of Puerto Rican Harlem
    by Gregory Corso

    Jackson confidently tackles this poem’s philosophical musings on mortality. His gestures and body language help to guide the poem’s tonal shifts as he embodies the narrator’s internal struggle from frustration and angst to understanding and peace. Jackson illuminates this progression well through thoughtful pacing and intonation.

  • Keys

    Dramatic Appropriateness

  • Jackson Hille

    Forgetfulness
    by Billy Collins

    Hille has a great connection with the audience—probably because he gets the wry, satirical voice of the poem just right. His performance, from the time he enters the stage to when he concludes—his posture, his smile, and the pacing of his voice—relates the resigned, yet warm and humorous tone of the poem. He shares the joy and cleverness of the work with the audience—almost to the point that “forgetfulness” is rather celebrated as a universal human trait.

  • Keys

    Voice and Articulation

    Evidence of Understanding

  • Sophia Elena Soberon

    Bilingual/Bilingüe
    by Rhina P. Espaillat

    Soberon’s polished stage presence and clear voice offset the poem’s conflicted subject matter and its themes of alienation and uncertainty. Her interpretation embodies a poised, reflective narrator who is confident in two languages where another may stumble.

  • Keys

    Physical Presence

    Voice and Articulation

  • Allison Strong

    Sonnet CXXX: My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun
    by William Shakespeare

    Strong elegantly relates the mounting tone from astute humor to quiet triumph in this sonnet. She masters the language from another era and makes it clear for the audience. She represents the strong rhyme scheme well—with no sing-song quality. The beauty of the language emerges as the recitation progresses.

  • Keys

    Evidence of Understanding

  • Shawntay A. Henry

    Frederick Douglass
    by Robert E. Hayden

    Henry has a wonderful stage presence—her bright articulation and deliberate pacing provide an authoritative take on this elegy. Her performance is understated yet inspired, not overdramatic. Her emphatic phrasing gives a quiet dignity and strength to this poem’s elemental language and lofty subject matter.

  • Keys

    Physical Presence

    Voice and Articulation

  • Madison Niermeyer

    I Am Waiting
    by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

    One challenge of this poem is not to make it sound wordy and repetitive with its refrain. Niermeyer skillfully varies her performance enough to avoid monotony and so capitalizes on the refrain. She manages the many allusions and communicates well the tricky tone between earnestness and satire. Niermeyer seamlessly blends her spare use of body language and gestures with the poem’s language and intent—they are never distracting, but only fitting and natural in their placement.

  • Keys

    Dramatic Appropriateness

    Voice and Articulation

  • Kareem Sayegh

    The Man-Moth
    by Elizabeth Bishop

    Sayegh moves effortlessly through this poem’s enchanting narrative, drawing the audience into the world of Bishop’s haunting and bizarre character. His skillful and deliberate pacing, rhythm, and intonation complement the poem’s language and its subtle shift in mood—from observation to intimacy. His gestures are economical and flow through the poem as an integral part of the recitation, working deftly to heighten its overall impact.

  • Keys

    Dramatic Appropriateness

    Voice and Articulation

  • Carolyn Rose García

    Pied Beauty
    by Gerard Manley Hopkins

    This is a challenging poem with abstract language and a timeless sensibility. Its meaning comes mostly from its unique sound and rhythm. García’s inflections, changing pace of delivery, and tone strongly communicate this sometimes nonsensical poem of reverence. Her performance confidently interprets this poem, making it enjoyable and digestible, illuminating rather than obscuring the language.

  • Keys

    Evidence of Understanding

  • William Farley

    Danse Russe
    by William Carlos Williams

    Farley successfully navigates the duality of tone in this bittersweet poem. His eye contact and body language—at times intense and direct, at times softened and playful—reveal his clear grasp of the poem’s melancholy undercurrent amidst its whimsy. Farley provides an intimate and ultimately endearing portrait of the narrator, captivating the audience by what it means to be alone and to be human.

  • Keys

    Physical Presence

    Evidence of Understanding

What People are Saying

"I will forever be indebted to Poetry Out Loud for the experience and opportunity that it has offered me. It has allowed me to get out of my comfort zone, face my fear and grow."
Faiza Abubakar
2014 MN POL Champion