How To Win a Poetry Contest

Girl writing poems

You want to be a published poet, and perhaps even make money at your writing.  How do you begin?  First, poetry is a very competitive field and is a difficult skill to develop.  Many authors begin with this style of writing, because most people think a poem is a rhymed ditty they can whip out in minutes.  This is not at all true. Your competition is fierce and tremendous in number.  If you've developed your talent and are ready to enter this competitive field, you may want to begin by entering a poetry contest.

You've found the contest you want to enter, now what?  Read the submission guidelines and follow them exactly.  The number one reason for editorial rejection is becaue of erroneously submitted content.

Line limits are the biggest issue with a contest editor. It shows the capacity to follow direction and allows for publication space.  If a poetry contest's guidelines mention a twenty-one line limit, they mean it.  Your poem, no matter how astonishing, will be eliminated if it surpasses this mandate.

Style: If you prefer writing sonnets, do not enter a contest for writers of free verse.  If you like to ponder fluffy clouds and silken posies, don't enter a contest geared towards the "Old West".  Content is almost more important to the editor than the style.  Almost!  You cannot get by on your invaluable ability to rhyme.  You must have style, flow, rhythm and direction in your writing.

Avoid: Overuse of alliteration. I know it sounds beautiful, but excessive alliteration sounds Seussian.  Stay clear of clichés.  This is extremely difficult, but essential.  An editor can only stomach so many "sun-filled smiles" and "dogwood days of autumn".  You must concoct a new recipe of phrases to your pallet.  Capture the editor's eye and fill it with intellectually stimulating visions that lead to something.  Gorgeous words on a page with no path are another no-no.  If you want to list all of the polysyllabic verbiage you know, write for a thesaurus.

Patience and acceptance: Be patient, receive criticism professionally, and don't take rejection personally.  Most poems are tossed out for line violations, errors in submission guidelines, missed deadlines, and so on.  Develop a tender sense of style and a thick skin.  Remember, you are in a very competitive field.

Finally: Never pay for publicatin.  If you have to pay for an "Anthology" to see your poem in print, I can almost guarantee you will be disappointed.  You will find your poem in rows and rows of other hopeful stanzas.  You may be prompted to pay for a biography, a photograph, extra copies, and so on.  I know, I've been there.  You can make it with talent and tenacity.


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