The Poetry Bee


Years ago, as part of a standard English curriculum in public schools across the U.S., poetry was routinely memorized. Sadly, it is hard to find any elementary or middle school student who even recognizes the names of Wordsworth, Tennyson, or Longfellow, let alone recite one of their poems. The goal of our biannual poetry bee promote knowledge and stir excitement about a very neglected subject.

    To prepare students for the event, I have been regularly posting information for the Vice and Virtue, Foundations, English Literature, and Personal Narrative students to peruse. The weekly blogs will include information on poets, poems and poetics. Through these blogs and class lectures students will learn technical words used in scansion as well as biographical information about important poets. Most, but not necessarily all, of the questions in the bee will be based on the information presented in these poetry blogs. The bee will also include recitations, most of which are regularly assigned for class (see below). As for now, however, the students should focus on the poetry that they have to memorize for class, as their performance on this material will play an important part in determining whether or not they will be final contestants. For further details about the bee, please click on the hyperlinks below.

    As I did in previous years, I want to be able to give a cash and book prizes for the winners of the contest. (There will be a first and second place winner for each class.) I will rely on donations from parents for funding the bee. Please consider contributing to the fund. All of the donated money will be used for the students’ prizes.

Rules for the Poetry Bee

  1. The following material generally presents what the poetry contest will cover.  As in other bees in which study material is distributed beforehand to students, the lists presented below will help the contestants to succeed in the preliminary rounds, and may even take them all the way to the final round and to the championship. However, it may be that the later rounds of the bee draw from material for which no specific preparatory material has been given. This makes the contest more challenging and interesting, but there is also a practical consideration. Unless unpredicted variables are thrown into the mix, the contest may drag on without a winner being declared. I may alter this syllabus slightly as required; however, the poems will remain the same.

  2. Who Participates?

  3. Four classes will be participating in the bee: the Vice and Virtue, Foundations, and English Literature and History, and Personal Narrative classes. The A is for Apple and the B is for Birds classes will be reciting their poems or stanzas of poems, but will not be in the contest.

  4. Rounds of the Poetry Bee

  5. Although the poetry recitation scores from the year will factor into the contest, all of the students in the classes will be present in the initial rounds and have a chance to win the contest. The rounds will be as follows:

  6. Class Round

  7. Students have been reciting poetry throughout the year. Students with a perfect average score (100%) will receive 5 points. Those with a 98%-99% average or higher will receive 3 points; those with a 90%-97% average will receive 2 points. Those with an average score below 90% will receive no points.

  8. Round 1

  9. Recitation of poetry (Preliminary Rounds List)

  10. Students will be assigned to recite a poem or one or more stanzas of a poem drawn randomly by the judges of the contest. These will be the poems that the students have memorized during the year for their respective classes. It may be that the same poem is recited more than once during this first round.

  11. Students will receive 3 points for a perfect recitation; 2 points for 1 mistake; and no points for three or more mistakes. A mistake is defined as 1) an omitted word 2) any word added  3) mistake in word order 4) any word incorrectly stated (e.g., “a” for “an”; “cleaned” for “clean”; “did” for does”). In case of word order mistakes, if more than one word is out of order, no point is given. In case of line order mistakes, no point is earned. If students need a prompt, one point will be deducted (although students can have a previous stanza repeated without being penalized). If a student fails to recite or to finish reciting a poem or stanza of a poem, the next student will recite the next stanza or poem.

  12. Round 2

  13. Poets and Poetry

  14. Students will be given a question on poets or poetry. Each question answered correctly will receive 3 points.

  15. Poetry Intermission

  16. The A is for Apple and B is for Birds groups will recite their poetry. The intermission will allow the judges to tally the scores and decide who will be remaining in the bee. The top half of the class will remain for Round 3.

  17. Round 3

  18. Poetics

  19. Round 3 will start after the scores have been tabulated. Students will be given a question on poetics. Each question answered correctly will receive 1 point.

  20. Rounds 4

  21. Poets and Poetry

  22. Students will be given a question on poets or poetry. Each question answered correctly will receive 1 point.

  23. Poetry Intermission

  24. Two students from a the high school class will recite a poem.

  25. Round 5

  26. Poetics

  27. Round 5 will start after the scores have been tabulated. About ten students of the class will remain for this round. Students will be given a question on poetics. Each question answered correctly will receive 1 point.

  28. Round 6

  29. Poets and Periods

  30. Students will be given a question on poets or poetry. Each question answered correctly will receive 1 point.

  31. Round 7 to end

  32. Recitation of poetry (Intermediate and Final Rounds List)

  33. Round 7 will start after the scores have been tabulated. The top three to five students of the class will remain for this round. Students will be assigned to recite a poem or one or more stanzas of a poem drawn randomly by the judges of the contest. The poetry recited in this round will be from the list posted online of “Final Round Poetry,” not from the list of class poetry. They will also be asked questions on poets, poetry and poetics. Any mistake will disqualify the contestant in a round. However, if all contestants are disqualified in a round, they all re-enter the contest. There will be ONE poem recited for every two questions.

  34. Poetry to Memorize for Vice and Virtue Group

  35. Preliminary Rounds

  36. •Christina Rossetti, “Consider”

  37. •Alfred Tennyson, “The Eagle”

  38. •William Cowper, “The Lord My Banner”

  39. •Robert Frost, “The Pasture”

  40. •Isaac Watts, “Praise to Our Creator”

  41. Intermediate and Final Rounds

  42. •See Poems for Final Rounds

  43. Poetry to Memorize for the Foundations Class

  44. Preliminary Rounds

  45. •Isaac Watts, Eternal God

  46. •William Blake, “The Echoing Green”

  47. •Emily Dickinson, “The Pedigree of Honey”

  48. •William Cowper, “Light Shining out of Darkness”

  49. •Christina Rossetti, “Good Friday”

  50. Intermediate and Final Rounds

  51. •See Poems for Final Rounds

  52. Poetry to Memorize for the English Literature and History Class

  53. Preliminary Rounds

  54. •William Wordsworth, The Sun Has Long Been Set

  55. •Buds and Babies by Christina Rossetti

  56. •Binsey Poplars by Gerard Manley Hopkins

  57. •Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

  58. •Nature by Emily Dickinson

  59. •The Descent from the Cross by Christina Rossetti

  60. •Time by Jonathan Swift

  61. Intermediate and Final Rounds

  62. •See Poems for Final Rounds

  63. Poets

  64. Students will need to know the basic facts about the following authors, such as their country of origin (England or America), their time period (Neoclassical, Romantic, Victorian, 19th century, 20th century, etc.), and their works. Given a poem, students should be able to identify the author, and vice versa. Given a period, student should be able to name a poet of that particular period. Other biographical detail questions might be given in the later rounds. Most (but not necessarily all) of the information needed to answer the questions asked before the final round will be presented on the News Web Page of the web site.

  65. •John Clare

  66. •Ezra Pound

  67. •Rudyard Kipling

  68. •Thomas Gray

  69. •Walter Scott

  70. •Thomas Hardy

  71. •Edmund Spenser

  72. •Robert Browning

  73. •Elizabeth Barrett Browning

  74. •Caedmon

  75. •T. S. Eliot

  76. •Henry Vaughn

  77. •Matthew Arnold

  78. •Geoffrey Chaucer

  79. •Percy Bysshe Shelley

  80. •Robert Burns

  81. •George Herbert

  82. •John Donne

  83. •Ann Bradstreet

  84. •Gerard Manley Hopkins

  85. •John Milton

  86. •William Blake

  87. •George Gordon Byron

  88. •Walter Raleigh

  89. •William Cullen Bryant

  90. •Dante Gabriel Rossetti

  91. •William Cowper

  92. •Christina Rossetti

  93. •Isaac Watts

  94. •William Wordsworth

  95. •Robert Frost

  96. •Alfred Tennyson

  97. •Oliver Wendell Holmes

  98. •Emily Dickinson

  99. •John Greenleaf Whittier

  100. •John Keats

  101. •Alexander Pope

  102. •Richard Crashaw

  103. •Robert Herrick

  104. •James Russell Lowell

  105. •James Thomson

  106. •Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  107. •William Cullen Bryant

  108. •Samuel Johnson

  109. •Ben Jonson

  110. •William Shakespeare

  111. •Samuel Taylor Coleridge

  112. Periods

  113. Student should know the characteristics of the different periods of poetry.

  114. Poetics

  115. (This list is not complete, but no other questions will be asked until the final round or if the other questions have been exhausted.)

  116. Terms for meter: monometer, dimeter, trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, hexameter, heptameter, octameter, iambic (iamb), trochaic (trochee), anapestic (anapest), dactylic (dactyl), spondaic (spondee), amphibrach, pyrrhic

  117. Terms for rhyme: eye rhyme, perfect rhyme, imperfect rhyme, consonance, assonance, alliteration, masculine rhyme, feminine rhyme, internal rhyme, end rhyme

  118. Terms for figures of speech: metaphor, simile, symbol, synecdoche, metonymy, personification, hyperbole, kenning, onomatopoeia, allegory, oxymoron, irony, paradox,

  119. Terms for stanza forms: ballad stanza, terza rima, quatrain, couplet, octave, triplet, sestet

  120. Terms for poetic forms or kinds of poems: ballad, sonnet, English sonnet, Shakespearean Sonnet, Italian Sonnet, Petrarchan Sonnet, narrative poem, blank verse, ode, lyrical verse, epic, free verse, dramatic poetry, elegy

  121. Miscellaneous terms: catalectic, acatalectic, caesura, meter, scansion, foot, prose, poetics, stress, canto, metaphysical poet, figure of speech, pathetic fallacy, prosody.=

Poems for Final Rounds
The students should prepare for the bee first by memorizing the class poems.Many students preparing for the National Spelling Bee will go through many fiery hoops to reach their goals, including memorizing the dictionary! Likewise, I try to make the poetry competitive for everyone, but realize that not all students will have the time or ability to perfectly memorize all the poems and blog material.

Example Questions
The beginning questions of the bee will be all multiple choice; only in the final rounds will students have to answer questions cold. Below are some sample questions. which may or may not be in the actual bee.

Which of the following describes the rhyme of the words “maid,” spelled m-a-i-d and “said,” spelled s-a-i-d?

  1. a)assonance

  2. b)consonance

  3. c)eye rhyme

  4. d)perfect rhyme

  5. e)iambic

Answer: c

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were written in ___.

  1. a)iambic pentameter

  2. b)dactylic hexameter

  3. c)sprung rhythm

  4. d)free verse

  5. e)end rhyme

Answer: b

Which of the following would describe the rhythm of the word “toothpaste”?

  1. a)couplet

  2. b)epic

  3. c)anapestic

  4. d)dactylic

  5. e)spondaic

Answer: e

Which of the following was a Fireside poet as well as an ardent abolitionist and Quaker?

  1. a) John Greenleaf Whittier

  2. b) Richard Nixon

  3. c) James Thomson

  4. d) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  5. e) Ann Bradstreet

Answer: a

If you were able to answer the above questions, I congratulate you! But please, don’t let them scare you. These examples were just meant to get you familiar with the kinds of questions that will be asked on the poetry bee. We will be going over "eye rhyme" and other material— including poets, poetics and poetry—in future installments. For now, we will be going over the material slowly—about once a week until January, when the blogs will become more frequent For now students should know the poems that are assigned in class.