Afro Poetry Times

Writing Tips: How to win poetry contests


So you have been entering poetry contests and you've never actually won anything? Chances are that you are bound to give up writing altogether.

Don't give up. Try out these simple tips and see how it goes.

1. Read the instructio­ns! I received entries with no cheque, no contact details, in file formats I couldn't open etc. Many poets put their names on the poem itself - despite instructio­ns not to! - or double spaced their poems so they spread onto two sheets when the rules clearly said one sheet only!

2. Don't write everything in capital letters. The rules may not state this, but just don't. See Capital Idea

3. Check for mistakes in spelling and puncutatio­n

4. Pay attention to detail - edit carefully, make sure every word is the right word and has earned its place in the poem. Get someone to look it over for you if you can.

5. A strong opening grabs the attention - pay special attention to the first few lines... and the last few.

6. A strong voice or character engages the reader more than abstract content

7. It has to stand out from the competitio­n - so send poems with surprising and interestin­g subject matter

8. The same is true of titles. Spend time thinking of a title that adds to the poem

9. Read it aloud - judges will often do this and there may be the odd awkward rhythm, or phrase that jars

10. I'm a chronic deadline-hugger. I've still been placed in competitio­ns despite only entering a day or two before the deadline. However half the entries I received were in the last week, and I couldn't help thinking it might be better to arrive before the rush - if only to ensure the postal service and computer systems don't thwart you at the last minute! Just a thought.

Good luck! And remember - it's all subjective. What one judge puts aside another may love.

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