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Winning a competition

PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2005 9:25 am
by John A Silkstone
Hi Clare,

After reading you comments I thought I'd but this on site which will help any budding poets out there who feel they may want to enter a poetry competition. Follow the rule and you stand a good chance of being on the long or short list of winners.


New poetry competitions are currently springing up like summer flowers, with some offering big cash prizes and publication as an incentive to enter. To be among the winners, you will obviously have to write a really good poem, and of course you Will - but you’re not the only good poet with his or her eye on the prize. What you can do to improve your chances of competitive success?

Statistically speaking, you stand more chance in a smaller contest. Though a win would be lovely, the chances of an inexperienced poet winning, say, the Bridport Prize (with 5,000+ entries each year), are only a bit better than those of winning the National Lottery - its high profile and big cash prizes mean that top-class poets from all over the world will submit their work. For the same price, you could enter two smaller competitions, with a statistically higher chance of a good poem winning or being placed

If the judge is a published poet, reading a selection of their work may help you to decide which of your poems are most likely to find favour with them. Poets don’t generally limit themselves to reading and enjoying only poetry that’s just like theirs, but you may get an idea of the general style of poetry that will catch her eye. Belier still, Look at the results of any competition they’ve judged previously.

I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who disqualify their own work by ignoring the few, simple rules of entry. Don’t let your work fall at the first hurdle - read the rules carefully, and make sure that you follow them to the letter. Above all, don’t put your name on the same sheet as the poem. Poetry competitions are judged anon so that a known poet has no more chance than a new one.

Type your poem on a single A4 page, in a basic font (l2pt Arial or Times New Roman), and DON’T add frames, clipart, a photo of yourself, or any other embellishment. These things do attract the judge attention, but not in a good way. A good poem speaks for itself.

Most competitions will offer you the chance to receive a breakdown of the results, provided you supply a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Get them - you’ll learn a lot about the judge, the contest and how you can increase your chances of success in the future. Some competitions inform all those whose poems make it onto the long or short lists; others offer critiques for an additional fee. This feedback can be reassuring, and increase your chances of winning in future.

I’ve judged poetry competitions, and the worst part of the job is having to reject so many really good poems. If you don’t win - and the vast majority of people won’t - it doesn’t mean that your poem’s no good. Entering competitions should be fun - a bit of a flutter. Don’t take it too seriously — and if it starts to get you down, stop doing it!

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2005 12:33 pm
by Clare
Hi John,

Thanks for the usefull post. After reading it I actually entered a poem in competition, though I do not greatly fancy my chances of winning !!