Online Learning Blog

Ten Tips For Entering Poetry Competitions

Published on 19th May 2015 by Diana Nadin

Competitions are fun! There’s no better feeling than getting your entry ready, sending it off and waiting in anticipation to see if you’re the winner. So why not improve your chances with the following tips:

1. Be original! Competition judges spend many hours reading through poems and, we know from the comments of our own judges, that they crave fresh, new ideas. As tempting as it might be to write about lost loves or the overwhelming beauty of nature, it’s also hackneyed and stale. Think outside the box and surprise the judges.

2. Don’t fiddle with word order. It’s easy to move words out of their natural order to make a rhyme, but you should resist the temptation. It looks obvious to the trained eye, breaks the flow of the poem and makes it difficult to read.

3. Use all the writing tools at your disposal. So, include a wide range of vocabulary, similes, alliteration and metaphors. But be careful not to use clichés – so avoid phrases like ‘hard as nails’, ‘green with envy’ or ‘as white as snow’. Think up something original, instead.

4. Don’t forget to punctuate. Some people think it’s OK to omit punctuation in poems. Wrong! You should use punctuation in the same way you would in any other writing you do. If you leave it out, your reader will find it difficult to understand the meaning of your poem and won’t know when they are supposed to pause.

5. Stay away from ‘poetic’ language. This may seem like a strange thing to advise, but would you want to read a contemporary poem with words like ‘hath’, ‘twas’,’tis’ and so on? They’re just not appropriate.

6. Make sure your poem has a title. It gives the poem a purpose – it also gives the reader some idea of what it’s about and helps them to focus their attention.

7. Prose and free verse are not the same thing; free verse requires rhythm and meter. So, don’t think by simply chopping up a piece of elegant prose you can call it a poem – it doesn’t work.

8. If you do choose a rhyming scheme (a Limerick is a good example, having a rhyming scheme of aabba), make sure it works.

9. When you’ve finished your poem, put it to one side for a least a week. This break will help you see the work with fresh eyes. When you come to check it you’ll be able to pick out and put right flaws and weaknesses more easily. Also, read your poem aloud – this will help you to spot if there are any problems with the rhythm and rhyme.

10. Last but not least (pardon the cliché) – always read the competition rules carefully. If you don’t follow them to the letter, you’ll not only be wasting your time, but throwing away your entry fee.

There you go! Some great tips for getting your poetry competition entries into tip top condition.