National poetry recitation contest for high school students returns to Toronto

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April 4, 2016

After six years of steady growth that saw the national competition host its last two annual finals in Vancouver and Montreal, Poetry In Voice/Les voix de la poésie returns this spring to Toronto, where 39 high school students from all over Canada will compete in the National Finals on April 20 and 21, 2016.

Founded by Scott Griffin, chairman and founder of the The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry, the competition promotes the art of poetry recitation in both the classroom and the community. The competition begins at the classroom level, and is followed by a school-wide contest, then progresses to Regional Finals and Online Semifinals, concluding with the National Finals. 

“It is my wish to see every student in Canada memorize at least one poem, which will remain with them for the rest of their lives,” says Scott Griffin. Poetry In Voice’s first National Finals in 2011 featured 12 participating schools; this year, 875 schools across the country participated in the program.

“To hear students reciting poetry is to be electrified by hope,” says Toronto Poet Laureate and National Finals judge Anne Michaels, “it’s an act of freedom, of love and respect for language, for an ancient tradition that is renewed each time we speak ourselves aloud. To commit to memory is to commit to ideas, to the open expression of thought and belief. Poetry In Voice is a spectacular event, a pure exchange, voice to voice, pure presence. To recite is to join one voice to another’s, it’s a powerful assertion of our humanity, here and now.”

After a day of qualifiers, the top-nine finalists will compete for championship titles before a sold-out audience of Toronto high-school students, teachers, and poetry lovers at the Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles Street West, Toronto on the afternoon of April 21. The competition, which will run from 1:30-3:30pm, will be hosted by Johanne Blais, of the former CBC Radio show “C’est la vie,” and will be livestreamed for classrooms all over Canada. Prizes will be awarded in the English, Bilingual, and French competition streams:

  • 1st prize in each category:
    $5,000 for the student
    $1,000 for the school’s library ($500 reserved for poetry books)


  • 2nd prize in each category:
    $1,000 for the student
    $500 for poetry books for the school’s library


  • 3rd prize in each category:
    $500 for the student
    $250 for poetry books for the school’s library

Joining Anne Michaels (The Weight of Oranges; Fugitive Pieces; Correspondences) on the English-language judging panel for the 2016 National Finals are Daniel David Moses (The White Line; Coyote City: A Play in Two Acts; Songs of Love and Medicine) and Mathew Henderson (The Lease).

The French-language judges are poets Denise Desautels (Ce fauve, Le Bonheur; The Night Will be Insistent: Selected Poems, 1987–2002, Translated by Daniel Sloate), Marie-Célie Agnant (Femmes des terres brûlées; Femmes au temps des carnassiers), Sonia Lamontagne (À tire d’ailes).

While attending the two-day competition, all of the student finalists will be able to attend writing workshops led by poets Paul Savoie and Damian Rogers, who is also the creative director of Poetry In Voice. Teacher chaperones will have the opportunity to attend Savoie’s writing workshop as well as a pedagogical workshop led by Poetry In Voice Educational Consultant Liisa House. The students and teachers will also attend a private screening of the documentary film Al Purdy Was Here. After the winners have been named, students will celebrate at a cabaret, featuring performances by singer-songwriter Doug Paisley and other special guests.

About Poetry In Voice:
Poetry In Voice is a national recitation competition, reaching across Canada in English and French, for secondary school and Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel (CEGEP) students. By engaging deeply with classic and contemporary examples of English- and French-language poetry through memorization and performance, students make poetry their own.

About The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry:
The Griffin Trust was founded in April 2000 by Chairman Scott Griffin, along with Trustees Margaret Atwood, Robert Hass, Michael Ondaatje, Robin Robertson, and David Young. In 2004 Carolyn Forché was named a Trustee and joined the list of internationally-acclaimed writers who sit on the board of the Griffin Trust. In 2014, Karen Solie and Colm Tóibín were named Trustees and Margaret Atwood and Robert Hass moved into the role of Trustees Emeritus. By funding the Griffin Poetry Prize — the world’s largest prize for a first edition single collection of poetry written in, or translated into, English — The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry aims to spark the public’s imagination and raise awareness of the crucial role poetry plays in our cultural life, a mission shared by Poetry In Voice.

Twitter:   @PIV_LVP
Facebook:   Poetry In Voice/Les voix de la poésie
For interview requests, please contact:

Damian Rogers at 416.993.5683