Poetry Competitions – why bother?
It took me a long time to make the decision to enter my poetry into competitions. After all, it can cost a substantial amount of money without any guarantee of a return unless you decide to enter poetry competitions with little or no entry fee. And there are many.
On the other hand, there are huge benefits to entering poetry competitions. I have listed some of my thoughts below, along with links to websites that list the latest poetry competitions, nationally and internationally.
7 Amazing Reasons to Enter a Poetry Competition.
Sometimes there is nothing better than a deadline to force the muse, although I’m willing to admit that this doesn’t work for everyone. However, for those of us who procrastinate, concentrated thought under pressure can do wonders for our creative drive. Knowing that a deadline is approaching spurs me into making time in my busy schedule for writing, which can’t be a bad thing, can it?
- Blind Judging
Poetry competitions give you the opportunity to see your work judged on an equal footing with established and emerging poets. Entries are almost always judged blind so it doesn’t matter if you’ve never had a poem published or even if you’re entering the very first poem you’ve ever written – although you’d need to be fairly amazing to be placed. It can be difficult breaking into the world of published poetry and competitions offer unpublished writers an invaluable step up.
Your poems won’t always place in a poetry competition but you may receive valuable feedback from distinguished judges whose work you already admire. That feedback can help you to understand the current trends in contemporary poetry and to better fine-tune your own work. I am not suggesting that you abandon your own unique voice but if you intend to submit work for publication then it helps to know how your peers view your poetry. It goes without saying that reading the winning poems is also hugely important if you want to get published.
You don’t need to win a competition to be published. In some competitions all you need do is make the shortlist. Usually these competitions do cost money to enter, however, not all are expensive. My poem, To Drift in Sandstone Folds, was highly commended in the Margaret Reid Poetry Competition (2009) and can still be seen on their website. Other competitions will publish shortlisted or commended poems in anthologies or poetry collections. This can be a great way to build up a résumé of published poetry for when you decide to have a go at submitting to literary journals and magazines.
Not everyone can win a poetry competition but shortlisted poets may well be invited to the award ceremony. Fabulous of course for the winners but what about those people who just miss out? Firstly, it is an amazing achievement to have been invited. It proves that your poetry is polished and of a high standard within a highly competitive field of literature. Secondly, look around the room. You are shoulder to shoulder with some of the best poets writing. Use the opportunity to make friends and network. Sharing ideas and experiences with other writers can be a very rewarding experience as well as giving you the chance to get feedback on your own poetry. Australian poet and short story writer, Kristin Martin, was awarded second place in the 2017 Salisbury Writers’ Festival Poetry Competition (for her poem Loss). When I spoke to her about the Award Ceremony she made this comment:
‘I enjoyed the Salisbury Writers’ Festival Awards Ceremony immensely. I was able to catch up with poets whose work I admire, and stand with them in front of the audience as we received our certificates, which was a real thrill. For me, the highlight was the proud smiles on my sons’ faces as they watched me receive my 2nd prize certificate and cheque.’ Kristin Martin, 2017.
There’s one more plus, which I will cover below.
Award ceremonies are not only for writers; they are attended by distinguished judges, publishers, and local or national personalities, too. Don’t forget that attending events also gives them the chance to meet and approach you. At the Henry Lawson Festival of Arts Award Ceremony, I was approached by one of the judges and invited to submit work to an anthology of short stories and poetry – to be judged blind. Some writers are invited to speak or teach. Others (the very lucky few) are even offered publication. Where else can you get the same exposure?
Finding out that your poetry has finally been placed in a competition is one of the most rewarding experiences a writer can have. It proves to everyone, but most of all to yourself, that you are on the right track. And there are many rewards that come with success. For some people, it is the sheer joy of seeing their poetry receive the recognition they have always hoped for – but never quite believed possible. For others, it is the financial reward. For me, it was the pleasure of attending the Henry Lawson Festival of Arts’ award ceremony where I was able to read my poem, drought, in front of a distinguished audience, including Hilarie Lindsay, author of The Washerwoman’s Dream, and Canadian-Australian author Tara Moss. Oh, and don’t forget that your poetry will most likely be published in an anthology or online, not only a great thrill but a well-earned addition to your résumé.
Poetry Competitions/Prizes – Links.
Below are websites that list competitions for Poets. There will be many poetry competitions that are repeated but I’m hoping that between them the websites will cover enough to keep you writing for years to come. So give it a go. After all, what have you got to lose?