“When you write poetry, imagine looking through a small window. Focus on just one aspect of the scene,” advised Alison Riley on a recent ’Poetry Stroll and Write’ which I stumbled upon whilst on holiday in Castleton, in the Peak District.
As I’ve said before, I am not a poet but anything remotely writing orientated always grabs my attention, so whilst my husband took himself off for a walk, I joined the poetry session.
Alison was full of good advice.
Whenever I attempt a poem I immediately start worrying about its form – rhyming? free verse? sonnet? etc. Alison suggested that I forget all of this and instead let myself go with some free writing about what was around us.
“Don’t worry about form or rhyme,” she said. “That can all come later.”
I managed some disjointed phrases about the mountain rescue van parked nearby. It definitely wasn’t poetry but Alison reckoned that with a bit of polishing it could become a reasonable poem.
Alison then showed us the poem ‘Resolution‘ by Jo Bell. It’s about Castleton at New Year and, sitting there in the quaint old village where it was written, it was extremely evocative. I began to feel that maybe I too could write a poem and, back in our rented cottage, I did. It’s about the ‘coffin route’ from Edale to Castleton (before there was a church in Edale, the corpses had to be carried over the hill into the next town for burial) – at the moment it’s just a rough version in my notebook but maybe one day I’ll dare to bring out into the light of day…
Thanks for the inspiration, Alison!
Alison Riley organises the Derbyshire Stanza of the Poetry Society.
It was a good meeting at my writing group last week. There weren’t many of us but everyone had brought something to read and had also written it with a market in mind, including Woman’s Weekly, People’s Friend, National Women’s Register short story competition (restricted to NWR members only, unfortunately) and a Writers’ News competition.
But Iona had also written a beautiful poem that was looking for a home. It was a moving verse about a soldier trying to find peace. I liked the poem because it was accessible. It rhymed (and none of the rhymes were forced) and the language was easily understood. This led onto a discussion about whether poems should or shouldn’t rhyme and how some, much praised, poems are often difficult to understand.
I rarely write poetry (because I’m not much good at it) but when I do attempt the odd verse I automatically make it rhyme and try to give it some sort of recognisable meter. More often than not it tells a story too – I find purely descriptive poems difficult. But my poems usually end up sounding rather childish and I don’t know whether this is because of the rhyming or just a reflection of my poor writing.
Of course, not all free verse is difficult to understand, I’ve just discovered ‘You’re Beautiful’ by Simon Armitage – have a read, it’s wonderful.
What do you think makes a good poem? Should it have a recognisable form and meter or should the poet be free to compose however he or she wishes?
And just in case you’ve come over all poetic, I’ve found a free to enter poetry competition. Blue Mountain Arts is offering prizes of $300, $150 and $50. You can enter by email as many times as you like and the closing date is June 30th 2012. Full details are here. Interestingly they state, “Poems can be rhyming or non-rhyming, although we find that non-rhyming poetry reads better.”
Write Exposure has launched its first monthly competition. There are 3 categories – short fiction (up to 1200 words), flash fiction (up to 250 words) and poetry. Entry into each category is £4 or you can enter all 3 for £9.
The winner will be showcased on the website for a month along with 3 other ‘honourable mentions’.
Prize money depends on the number of entrants. I couldn’t find it on the website so I contacted Cheslyn Baker, who is running the competition, to find out the ‘formula’ that would be used to calculate the prize. She told me that it would be 25% of the total entry fee received in each category.
The theme for the competitions will change each month. For November it is “I know your face” and the closing date is 30th November.
Please read the full details here before you enter.
In most competitions we never know what percentage of the entry fees was paid out in prizes so this competition is being transparent in that respect. It is also being open about its judging. It will be using a panel of 3, one of whom is a ‘citizen’ judge and any of us can apply to sit in that third seat. See the website for details.
What does anybody think about prize money being 25% of the pot? Is it fair? Can we (the entrants) actually reach a fair conclusion on this question when so many other competitions only advertise a fixed prize rather than a percentage?
There is a lot of work in running a writing competition – including a large amount of administration as well as the actual reading and judging of entries. 100 entries would be required to win £100 – and I’m sure that a lot of competitions offering a prize of £100 receive more than 100 entries so maybe 25% is realistic.
By coincidence I came across another competition recently where the prize money is dependent on the number of entrants. Words Magazine is running a ‘winner takes all’ competition for short stories of up to 2000 words. Entry fee is £3 – so if 100 people enter the prize will be £300 (Closing date is December 31st).
Best of luck if you decide to enter either of these!
Alex Black contacted me last week and asked if I’d give a mention to the poetry competition that his company, PrintExpress.co.uk, is running. So here goes:
- Entry is free!
- First prize is £150
- Poems can be on any theme and up to 45 lines long
- Entry is via email
- Closing date is November 30th 2011
Full details can be found here
So with nothing to lose in entry fees or postage, even a non-poet like me might enter!
The New Writer doesn’t have the glossy finish of Writing Magazine or Writers’ Forum nor does it have pages of adverts. I think the magazine has a cosy, friendly feel. The Spring 2011 edition included features on ‘First of a Million Kisses’ by romance writer Sally Quilford, ‘Travel Writing Perks’ by Roy Stevenson and ‘Make it Short & Snappy’ by me (!).
The magazine is open to unsolicited articles and features (for which it pays a small amount). Poetry is also accepted but fiction is restricted to guest writers, subscribers’ stories on a given theme and competition entrants.
The New Writer runs an annual Prose and Poetry Competition with 5 categories:
- Micro fiction – up to 500 words (2 entries for £5 or 3 entries for subscribers)
- Short stories - 500 to 5,000 words (1 entry for £5 or 2 entries for subscribers)
- Single poems (2 entries for £5 or 3 entries for subscribers)
- A collection of 6 – 10 poems (£12 entry)
- Essays, articles and interviews on any writing related subject - up to 2,000 words (1 entry for £5 or 2 entries for subscribers)
The annual closing date is 30th November and the prizes are:
Micro Fiction: 1st prize £150, 2nd £100, 3rd £50.
Short Stories: 1st prize £300, 2nd £200, 3rd £100.
Single Poem: 1st prize £100, 2nd £75, 3rd £50
Poetry Collection: 1st prize £300, 2nd £200, 3rd £100.
Essay/article/interview: 1st prize £150, 2nd £100, 3rd £50.
If all this has whetted your appetite then you can obtain a free back issue by sending an A4 SAE to the address shown on the website here (scroll to the bottom of the page for the offer).
When entering a writing competition it’s nice to think that your entry fee has gone to a worthy cause – it softens the blow of not making it to the short-list!
The Help For Heroes charity is running a poetry competition. First prize is £250 in Primark vouchers and there is no fixed entry fee but entrants are asked to donate at least a pound per poem and all money raised will go to the charity.
The judge is Peter Quinn, managing director of United Press and he is asking for, “ …poems related to Help for Heroes. It could be a poem about an individual or it could be a poem with a message.”
The winner will also have their poem published in a general collection of modern poetry and will receive a free copy of the book as well as attending a prize presentation.
The closing date is November 11th 2011 and full details on how to enter can be found here.
This is a cheap to enter competition for a worthy cause – why not give it a go?
The library was full of leaflets for poetry competitions. I only do poetry very badly so I won’t be entering but here are the details for the rest of you:
- Sonnet or Not organised by Cannon Poets. Choose one of the traditional sonnet forms or experiment with alternative 14 line forms. First prize £250 and entry fee is £4 for the first poem and £2.50 for each additional poem. Closing date is 31st October 2011. For full details email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Nottingham Open Poetry Competition. First prize £300 and entry fee is £3 per poem or £10 for 4 poems. Closing date is 6th September 2011. Full details plus last year’s winners are here.
- Torbay Open Poetry Competition. This is organised as part of Torbay Poetry Festival and has a huge £800 first prize plus a Prizegiving Party in Torquay. Entry is £4 per poem or £10 for 3 poems. Closing date is 31st August 2011. An entry form is required and I suggest you use the contact form on the Festival website to request one.
In case you’re wondering – the illustration is William Blake’s poem ‘The Tyger’.
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I’ve just come back from visiting my mother-in-law in North London. She took me to see the lovely new library in Enfield and whilst I was there I picked up some information on The Enfield Mayor’s Poetry Competition with a £500 first prize. There is £200 and £100 for second and third places plus a special prize of £50 for a poem using Enfield as its theme. The closing date for the competition is 31st January 2011 and it will be judged by Mario Petrucci.
The competition is open to anyone aged 16 or over. Poems must be previously unpublished and not exceed 50 lines. Entries should not identify the author but a cover sheet should be included giving contact details. No entry form is required. The entry fee is £3 per poem or £10 for 4 poems. Full details and comprehensive rules (including where to send your poems) can be found by clicking here.
The purpose of the competition is to raise funds for the mayor’s charity appeal which, this year, is supporting the arts in Enfield.
Best of luck to all you poets out there!