Speech & Debate
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State Champions

Prose and Poetry Frequently Asked Questions

*Important Note: In any question of procedure or documentation, the Constitution and Contest Rules should be consulted.

Questions & Answers

E-mail Documentation

Q. Is e-mail an acceptable form of documentation?

A. Many students are now receiving e-mail directly from the authors themselves. E-mail is acceptable as long as it provides sufficient information to legitimize it as being received from a proper source. If the email address does not indicate the legitimate source (such as Scholastic Publishing), it is preferable for students to request from the respondent that they include their title/position and contact information. Note: The respondent should be instructed to copy the original request for information onto their response so the particular request can be verified.
(See the UIL website for sample email to author.) http://www.uiltexas.org/speech/oral-interp/sample-letter-to-request-documentation-from-authors


Q. Is internet an acceptable form of documentation?

A. When evaluating Internet sources for documentation purposes, quality standards are a necessity because the Internet contains web pages posted by youngsters as well as world-class experts. Just like the print medium, you must distinguish between quantity and quality. Students are allowed to access the Internet to locate documentaion. As long as the site they have downloaded the information from is a legitimate one, it is acceptable to offer as documentation. Many contemporary authors today have their own website, and information from these are acceptable, since they are copyrighted to the author, as is information students download from a publishing company’s website. However, be careful of personal websites that are not copyrighted. These do not provide
acceptable documentation.

Acceptable Internet sites include those run by:

Government Agencies

College/University pages that are maintained by faculty and university department personnel, not students

Online encyclopedias

Book Publishers

Online libraries maintained by government agencies, colleges, universities

Unacceptable Internet sites: (Also check the UIL website for latest rulings.)






Unauthorized encyclopedias

If an online data service is used for documentation, the source of the published material should be included.

Letterhead Stationary Documentation

Q. Is a letter from the publisher/author on letterhead stationery acceptable?

A. Yes. The letter should be formal and on official stationery, not handwritten on plain paper.

Written Documentation

Q. What does the Constitution and Contest Rules mean by “written documentation”? May I hand copy or type my documentation?

A. No. Documentation should be provided from its original source, either photocopied or downloaded and printed electronically. Students may not create their own original documentation or provide it on an electronic device such as an iPhone or Kindle. 


Q. In order to prove a selection is published, printed material and Internet material has been printed in hard copy as well as being on the Internet, may we use Library of Congress cataloguing information?

A. Yes. Students may research a book by accessing the Library of Congress Online Catalog. If the book is listed there, you may download and print the cataloguing information in order to serve as proof the work is published in hard copy.

Special Collections

Q. My students enjoy the Chicken Soup for the Souls series. Can these be used for the contest?

A. It is strongly recommended students not use selections from the Chicken Soup series. They are problem­atic and usually result in disqualification due to incomplete documentation. Documenting the stories proves very difficult. Many times the individual attributed to a particular story in the collection is only a contributor and not the original author. Finding proof of original authorship will require a student and coach to obtain confirmation from the publisher. Again, we recommend students not use this series.

Same Selection

Q. Can you explain the rule concerning using the same selection I’ve already used in UIL competition?

A. Contestants may not use the same literary work more than one year at UIL State Meet. See further discussion in the UIL Prose and Poetry Handbook.

Prose Poetry

Q. I’ve found literature which is referred to on the book jacket as a prose poem. Should it be used in the prose contest or in the poetry contest? Where would it fit?

A. A Handbook to Literature, 8th edition, Harmon and Holman discusses this “modern phenomenon” and indicates that “some writers and critics argue that the prose poem doesn’t really exist.” “It may be that prose poem is a graphic or print category determined, finally, by how a piece is laid out in print.” Literature scholar Lawrence Perrine indicates in Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense that a prose poem is “usually a short composition having the intentions of poetry but written in prose rather than verse.” 

Because this is a competitive situation, contestants should use contest material which clearly can be determined as prose or poetry. The risk of controversy or disqualification is not worth it. Literature which clearly fits the genre categories abounds and makes it unnecessary to risk using literature which creates a genre blur.

One Poem or Two

Q. Is poetry which includes stanzas divided by Roman numerals but not individual titles considered one poem or multiple poems?

A. Poetry that has one title but Roman numerals between stanzas is one poem. The divisions are called cantos. A Handbook to Literature defines a canto as a section or division of a long peom. Derived from the Latin cantus (SONG), the word originally signified a section of a narrative poem of such length as to be sung by a minstrel in one singing. The books of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage are divided into cantos. Early in this century, Ezra Pound published pieces at first called “cantos of a poem of some length” and eventually called that poem simply The Cantos. Contemporary examples include: The People, Yes by Carl Sandburg and Rage by Lesléa Newman.


Q. The category says we can use an "excerpt" from a poem. How long is an excerpt?

A. There is no specified required number of lines; however, the cutting of the poem should meet the definition of excerpt which is "a passage selected or extracted."


Q. My literary selection is catalogued as a novel-in-verse. In which contest, prose or poetry, may it be performed?

A. If a literary work can be officially documented as a novel-in-verse (such as the Library of Congress Cataloguing), it is considered poetry for UIL competition.

Magazines and Journals

Q. Does a periodical such as a syndicated magazine and/or journal qualify as "hard copy" publication?

A. Yes, as long as the magazine and/or journal is not an online edition but is printed, paper material. It meets the definition required for published in hard copy. Note that local school departmental journals do not qualify since they do not have subscribers.

Books with Mixed Genres

Q. Can I perform a selection from a collection that has multiple genres, such as both poetry & prose included in the book?

A. You can, but you must complete an extra step in documentation. You will have to prove the piece you have chosen is the appropriate genre for the contest so find official documentation that clearly defines the selection is either prose or poetry. An example would be a statement from the author's official website that you have downloaded and printed with the URL in the header/footer.

Electronic Retrieval Devices Used fo Documentation

Q. May I show the contest director my documentation on my e-reader or tablet rather than printing the document?

A. No. This would not mee the constitutional requirments. (See further discussion online on the Oral Interpretation page of the UIL website.)


Q. Can I purchase an "e-book" rather than a hard copy of the book and use it to prove the book has been published in hard copy?

A. No.

Specific Writers and Books
The literary works Out of the Dust and Witness authored by Karen Hesse, Scholastic Press, are poetry.

The literary works by Sonya Sones, “One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies,” “Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy,” “What My Mother Doesn’t Know” and “What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know” are poetry. For updates on the writings of Ms. Sones, see the UIL website.

The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan is poetry, with the exception of the piece, “Writing.”

The literary works “Crank,” “Burned,” “Glass,” “Identical,” “Impulse,” “Pretty, Hungry” and “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins are poetry.

Def Poetry jam on Broadway…and More is tricky. The book has a table of contents that is divided into two parts: Part One and Part Two. These are two separate parts of the book with two different title pages. Part I has been ruled by UIL to be performance literature and therefore is ineligible for competition. It is a Broadway show that has won a Tony Award for “best Special Theatrical Event” and the Peabody Award. The manuscript includes stage directions. UIL will allow poems in Part II at the back of the book, the “….and More” to be used in competition, as they were not included in the Broadway show and many have been published stand alone in poetry anthologies. If you wish to use poems from the publication, be certain you understand the ruling and have selected poems declared eligible.

Sold by Patricia McCormick has conflicting documentation. The author herself has been contacted, and the official UIL ruling is poetry.

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass is confirmed by the author as "written in free verse" and therefore, is eligible for UIL poetry.

More Questions
See the web site for official rulings on specific literary works and for additional questions and answers to be added throughout the year.




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