National Poetry Recitation Competition

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Once upon a time young Australians were encouraged in schools to learn poems off by heart and to recite them. This follows a long of recitation of poems by such luminaries as ‘Banjo’ Patterson, Henry Kendall, Dorothea McKellar, John O’Brien, CJ Dennis and Adam Lindsay Gordon. As well as poems by Australians, I remember as a school child learning and reciting Alfred Noyes’ ‘The Highwayman’, ‘Matilda’ (Hilaire Belloc) and ‘The Listeners’ (Walter De La Mare.)

It seems as though poetry recitation by young people in Australia is now a thing of the past, and, so far as I know, there is nothing in Australia such as the recitation competitions which are held annually in the UK.

Thanks to a contribution to this site by Australian children’s poet Kate O’Neill, I learnt this week of two UK projects that encourage young people to learn poetry off by heart — and recite them for prizes.

These competitions are as follows:

Poetry by Heart is a pioneering national competition designed to encourage UK pupils aged 14-18 and at school and college in England to learn and to recite poems by heart.

In the UK, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with U.S. state arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, a contest that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if an Australian/s decided to make this a project in our country? (What are you waiting for?)

I would be very interested to hear of someone who would like to work with me to make the dream of a national poetry recitation competition a reality. Contact me on

Dianne (Di) Bates                                                                                                                                                       


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