Mountain Echoes: A Spoken Word Event brought to you by The River House, Wardensville Garden Market, and Project Write, Inc.

CONGRATULATIONS to the 2020 winners: First Place: Emily Yates (original poem); Second Place: Hsu Lwin; Third Place: Savannah Keller.

View the competition via the Facebook Live Stream.

Details for 2021 will be announced in March 2021. Details coming soon!

Join us for a spoken word competition for participants, grades 8-12. Participants will present one poem during a live performance at The River House in Capon Bridge to a panel of judges. The poem must be written by the performer. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place will receive cash prizes and all participants will receive a complimentary gift. 

In addition there will be a poetry webinar and practice sessions offered for those registered. Please register using the Google Form by (2021 details TBA).


  • Competition to be held on TBA 2021
  • Deadline for registration TBA 2021
  • Webinar to be held on TBA 2021
  • Online practice sessions to be available at various dates and times from TBA
  • Registration fee TBA

Competition Guidelines:

Participants will perform one original poem. Graphic sexual content or gratuitous coarse language not permitted.

The performances may be read, or performed by memory, with the understanding that a recited performance may improve a performer’s score. Each participant will be judged on the following categories:

  1. Physical Presence
  2. Voice and Articulation
  3. Dramatic Appropriateness
  4. Evidence of Understanding
  5. Overall Performance.

Three guest judges will rate the participant’s performance on a scale of 1-5 with the highest scores indicating the winner. In the event of a tie, the student with the highest Overall Performance score wins. When registering each participant will need to provide a release from their parents, legal guardian, or by their own hand if they are over 18. The competition may be made available for viewing to registered guests over Zoom or other online outlets. Cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners of $50.00, $30.00 and $20.00 will be presented.

An online webinar will be made available to all participants giving tips and guidelines for preparing their performance. The 2021 presenter is TBA. In 2020, John Berry presented the webinar, allowing time at the end for questions. At least one other adult will be present for the webinar. Private practice sessions will be available with Mr. Berry, and at least one other of the sponsoring adults.

Evaluation Criteria for Judges

PHYSICAL PRESENCE Consider the student’s stage presence, body language, and poise.

The student should be poised—but not artificially so—projecting ease and confidence by their physical presence. All qualities of the student’s physical presence work together to the benefit of the poem. This is an important category, but also one of the easiest to rate. A weaker performance may be one in which the student displays nervous gestures or appears stiff and uncomfortable with the audience.



Consider the student’s projection, pace, intonation, rhythm, and proper pronunciation.

The student should be clear and project enough to capture the audience’s attention. Projection should not be excessive. Any changes in tone should be appropriate to the subject matter. Students should proceed at a fitting and natural pace, not communicating too quickly from nervousness. Students should correctly pronounce every word in the poem. With rhymed poems, or with poems with a regular meter, students should be careful to not fall into a singsong rhythm. Decide whether the pauses come in suitable places for the poem. A recitation that is at a too slow or hurried pace, poorly projected, has a distracting rhythm or monotone delivery will obscure a poem’s meaning for the audience.



Consider whether the student’s interpretative and performance choices enhance the audience’s understanding and enjoyment of the poem without overshadowing the poem’s language.

This category evaluates the interpretive and performance choices made by the student. A strong recitation will rely on a powerful internalization of the poem rather than excessive gestures or unnecessary emoting. The interpretation should subtly underscore the meaning of the poem without becoming the focal point of the recitation. The videos of student recitations available at and on our Poetry Out Loud YouTube channel will help illustrate this point. Low scores in this category should result from recitations that have an affected pitch, character voices, singing, inappropriate tone, excessive gestures, or unnecessary emoting.


Consider the student’s use of intonation, emphasis, tone, and style of delivery.

This category measures a student’s comprehension and mastery of a poem. How well does the student interpret the poem for the audience? Does the student make difficult lines clearer? Does the student communicate the correct tone of the poem—angst, dry humor, ambivalence? The poet’s words should take precedence, and the student who understands the poem best will be able to communicate it in a way that helps the audience to understand the poem better. Students should demonstrate that they know the meaning of every line and every word of the poem through the way these elements are handled.

In a strong recitation, the meaning of the poem will be powerfully and clearly conveyed to the audience. The student will offer an interpretation that deepens and enlivens the poem. Meaning, messages, allusions, irony, shifts of tone, and other nuances will be captured by the performance. A great performer may even make the audience see a poem in a new way. A low score should be awarded if the interpretation obscures the meaning of the poem.



Consider whether the student’s physical presence, voice and articulation, dramatic appropriateness, and evidence of understanding all seem on target and unified to breathe life into the poem.

“Overall performance” is worth more than other categories, with the value up to nine points. This category evaluates the total success of the performance, the degree to which the recitation has become more than the sum of its parts. Has the student captivated their audience with the language of the poem? Did the student bring the audience to a better understanding of the poem?

Use this score to measure how impressed you were by the recitation, and whether the recitation has honored the poem. You may also consider the diversity of a student’s recitations with this score. If a student seems to be stuck using the same style of delivery with each of their poems, that may be evidence that they’ve not taken the time to consider each poem individually. In addition to range, judges should consider the complexity of the poem, which is a combination of its content, language, and length—bearing in mind that a longer poem is not necessarily a more complex one. A low score should be awarded for recitations that are poorly presented, ineffective in conveying the meaning of the poem, or conveyed in a manner inappropriate to the poem.