Senior Nationals

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2020 Online National Finals


Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes

On Friday, April 17 at 1pm Eastern, watch as the top 9 student reciters from across Canada lift poetry off the page and compete for over $35,000 in prizes. Meet our judges, poets Joséphine Bacon, Gwen Benaway, Anne-Marie Desmeules, Moe Clark, Pierre Nepveu, and Greg Santos, and find out who they’ve chosen as this year’s champions. Our host, former CBC Radio personality Johanne Blais, will lead the celebration and honour all 24 of our National Semifinalists.


These 24 students first won their classroom and school contests, and were then named the best reciters in the country by our Senior Online Qualifiers judges, poets Bathélemy Bolivar, Alice Burdick, Jean-Paul Daoust, Georgette Leblanc, Canisia Lubrin, Deanna Radford, Adam Sol, Neil Surkan, and Changming Yuan. The National Finals judges watched and scored all 24 students’ recitation videos, and selected the top three students in each stream.


As in all other levels of the competition, the recitations by our nine finalists are scored for voice and articulation, interpretation, physical presence, and understanding of the poem, as well as accuracy.


English Competition Stream: Students recite three poems in English from our online anthology

French Competition Stream: Students recite three poems in French from our online anthology

Bilingual Competition Stream: Students recite one poem in English and one poem in French from our online anthologies


In lieu of a trip to Montréal, this year’s Semifinalists are awarded $500 each.

Prizes in Each Stream

1st place: $5,000 for the student, $1,000 for their school’s library ($500 reserved for poetry books)

2nd place: $1,000 for the student, $500 for poetry books for their school’s library

3rd place: $500 for the student, $250 for poetry books for their school’s library

Guest Recitations

Two of our previous recitation champions honour the winners of the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry: Catricia Hiebert (2019 English Champion) recites “Root” from Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway, and Sarah Kordlouie (2013 French Champion) recites an excerpt from Anne-Marie Desmeules’ Le tendon et l’os.


Songs by Marika Galea from her album Nuance are threaded through the show, and Waahli Yussef ends our show with a DJed set.

In previous years, the 24 top-scoring students from our Senior Online Qualifiers are invited to compete at the National Semifinals. Then at the National FInals, the top 3 students in each of our three contest streams (English, Bilingual, and French) compete and we award the following:

  • 1st place: $5,000 for the student, $1,000 for their school library, with $500 reserved for the purchase of poetry books
  • 2nd place: $1,000 for the student, $500 for the purchase of poetry books for their school library
  • 3rd place: $500 for the student, $250 for the purchase of poetry books for their school library

With poetry-themed cultural activities, this is a truly immersive event: To date, we’ve hosted a Q&A with Margaret Atwood for finalists and their teachers; poetry-themed gallery tours of the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Ontario; a screening of Al Purdy Was Here followed by a Q&A with director, Brian Johnson; the Amazing Recitation Race in Vancouver; the Epic Toronto Poetry Showdown; the Epic Winnipeg Poetry Hunt; writing workshops for students; and best-practice workshops for teachers.

    Looking back at the 2019 National Finals in Winnipeg

    Watch the Finals

    Watch the English Semifinals


    Watch the French & Bilingual Semifinals


    Looking back at the 2018 National Finals in Toronto

    The Awards Show:


    The English Qualifiers:


    The French & Bilingual Qualifiers:




    Looking back at the 2017 National Finals in Vancouver

    English Finals & Showcase

    In this event hosted by Bill Richardson, the top 6 students from the English Stream Qualifiers competed for the prizes for themselves and their school libraries. The French and Bilingual winners from earlier in the day were also showcased.



    French & Bilingual Finals

    During this event hosted by Johanne Blais, six students in the French Stream and six in the Bilingual stream competed for the $5,000 grand prizes.



    English Qualifiers

    Hosted by former English Champion Roan Shankaruk, this competition features twelve high school students from across Canada reciting 3 poems from our anthology. The top 6 students advanced to our English Finals.



    Resisting, Surviving, and Embracing: Nationhood and Identity on #Canada150

    Poet Jordan Abel led a discussion among indigenous writers on the concepts of Canadian and Indigenous nationhood and the ways in which those ideas are expressed through poetry. 





    More information

    For judges: