May Poetry Contests

Introduction to Poetry Contests

Poetry contests are a great way for poets to share their work, get feedback from others, and potentially win some recognition and monetary reward. Put simply, a poetry contest is a competition in which poets submit their work for evaluation. Often, there are multiple prize categories, which may include categories for both amateur and professional poets; depending on the contest’s purpose, awards may be given for the best poem overall, or for specific elements such as meter, structure, or rhyme. In recent years, online venues such as websites, blogs, and social media platforms have provided an outlet for poets to organize and participate in contests, reaching a wider range of potential entrants and judges.

The Benefits of Participating in Poetry Contests

Participation in poetry contests encourages poets to hone their craft. Committing to a competition motivates creative minds to draw upon all of their skills in order to win, pushing poets to explore new ideas, formats, and subject matter. Additionally, by entering a poetry contest, writers get exposed to a broader range of poetic styles and approaches than their own, thus opening them up to new possibilities.
Winning and being recognized for your work can be a huge boost to self-esteem, providing poets with evidence of their own talent, and encouraging them to write more. Furthermore, participating in poetry contests makes it easier for poets to establish their presence in the literary world. Entries to these contests may be published in literary magazines and journals, or chosen for anthologies of best poetry, all of which are great opportunities for recognition and exposure.

judging Contests

The judging process for poetry contests can vary, though almost all will follow certain general guidelines. Judges will usually be composed of poetry professionals, such as published poets, poetry teachers, librarians, members of a literary magazine board of directors, or representatives of a sponsoring organization. Judges at large competitions, such as the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry or Poetry Magazine’s Levinson Prize, might include a large number of well-known and widely respected poets, editors, and critics in the field.
The judging criteria for each competition can also differ. Generally, a panel of judges will evaluate each entry on the basis of poetic content, technical command of the language, and emotional impact. Sometimes, judges may also take into account innovation, originality, execution, and overall form or style. Scores are then calculated and compared, and awards presented accordingly.

Types Of Contest

The types of contests available will depend on the goals of the organizing group or individual. For instance, some poetry contests may be open to the public and aim to recognize the best talent. Other contests might be limited to a particular theme, to a specific age group or educational level, or to a certain geographic area.
Organizations and media outlets that support and promote poetry may also host contests to find the best poem on a specific subject. Universities often host student poetry contests to showcase academic and creative writing abilities within their student body, while online contests look for poems that stand out in terms of form, content, and style.

Research Poetry Contests

Before entering any poetry contest, make sure to read their guidelines and selection criteria carefully. Look for reputable competitions with clear rules, reasonable entry fees, and reasonable deadlines. If the sponsors are demanding too much money or submitting original copies of your work is required, it is best to assume it is probably not a real or legitimate contest.
Take the time to research institutions or organizations that offer poetry contests. Look for ones with respectable track records and some validation. Many established national and international organizations and institutions host prestigious poetry contests; some of these are the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Society of America, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Preparing An Entry

If a poet opts to enter an international competition, they should be sure to submit the poem on time, in the recommended form and format. Also, when preparing their poem for entry, the poet should always remember that the rules of submission vary from contest to contest, so make sure to read the guidelines carefully before submitting.
When submitting entries, poets should also keep in mind that could likely be competing with other talented poets and so must make sure that the poem is polished to perfection. It is important to edit the poem for errors and make sure that the form, rhythm, and intent are as clear and affecting as possible.

Consider The Future Of The Poem

When entering a poetry contest, poets should always make sure they have the rights to their poems, as many contests have their own copyright rules and restrictions. Furthermore, before submitting their poem, poets need to consider what they want to do with the poem after the contest. When writing a poem with the intention of submitting it into a contest, poets should determine if they would like to be able to publish the poem down the line, or if they are comfortable with it being fully-owned by the contest sponsors.

Be Prepared For The Results

Finally, poets should remember that the chances of winning a poetry contest, even if the poem is extremely well-written, are very slim. Most likely, the chances of the poem being chosen as one of the top three entries are even slimmer. So, it is important for poets to keep a healthy mindset and not to expect too much from the results. After all, poetry contests are good opportunities to get exposure, build relationships, learn from others’ entries, and—hopefully—receive some positive feedback.

Managing Expectations When Participating In Poetry Contests

It is not uncommon for participants to experience disappointment when entering a poetry contest, especially if they don’t win or their work is not chosen for publication. It is important to remember that acceptance or rejection into a contest is subjective and that there is no one-size-fits-all ‘correct’ answer when it comes to poetry.
This is why it is essential to manage expectations before entering a poetry contest; rather than anticipating a win or top result, aim to use the experience to enhance skills and appreciate and learn from the work of other contestants. It is also important to remember that simply having the courage to submit work for critiques can be encouraging and rewarding, providing insight that can be invaluable when it comes to improving and progressing as a poet.

Using Poetry Contests For Motivation To Follow Your Dream

Poetry contests can help focus attention and energy on the craft, pushing poets to prioritize their passion and goals. By committing to a contest, participants are motivated to create poems in accordance with the judging criteria and to hone their ability to write compelling poetry that resonates with a wider audience.
Additionally, participation in a poetry contest often leads to personal growth by exposing poets to a variety of poetic styles and approaches different to their own. The experience and feedback gained from a contest can result in a greater understanding and appreciation of poetry, and the world of literature more broadly.

Quality Over Quantity

When preparing to enter a poetry contest, poets should take their time to craft a thoughtful and well-executed piece of work. Though the competition may seem like a race to submit as many poems as possible, it is better to focus on submitting one or two poems of the highest possible quality. After all, quality over quantity is key when it comes to poetry; a standout single poem is much more likely to capture the judges’ attention than a dozen average-quality ones.

Making The Most Of A Poetry Contest Experience

When given the opportunity, it is a good idea to attend a poetry contest event, provided it is safe and adheres to local pandemic regulations. Attending a event allows poets to get a firsthand look at the judging process, as well as the opportunity to meet and interact with seasoned poets, editors, and publishers.
Additionally, many poetry contests allocate a certain prize amount to be shared by the participants, such as money and overseas trips. A well-run contest will also offer unique opportunities to its participants, such as the chance to be published in a well-known magazine.

Organizer Responsibilities

When organizing a poetry contest it is important to consider the poets and their expectations. The organizers should streamline their entry processes and selection criteria, set reasonable judge quotas, and ensure the judging process is fair and efficient. Furthermore, sponsors should offer a variety of payment methods, ensure all rewards are of equal monetary value, and encourage judges to provide constructive feedback.
Organizers should also strive to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation. Where possible, there should be an ongoing dialogue between the event organizers and participants and the organizing group should do its best to create a welcoming, open environment for poets of all backgrounds.

Closing Remarks

Poetry contests are a great way for poets to display their work and gain recognition for their craft. With this in mind, poets must remember to research the contest before embarking on their submission, as well as consider their own rights and expectations. With a clear idea of the competition’s rules and expectations, poets can prepare appropriately and make the most of their experience. Ultimately, entering a poetry contest is an exciting opportunity to gain recognition, meet other local and international poets, and foster creativity.

Minnie Walters is a passionate writer and lover of poetry. She has a deep knowledge and appreciation for the work of famous poets such as William Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and many more. She hopes you will also fall in love with poetry!

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