The AVBOB Poetry Competition | Enjoy Entering Poetry Competitions? Here is How to Edit Your Work

Enjoy Entering Poetry Competitions? Here is How to Edit Your Work

There is a good reason why published authors, writers, and poets strongly rely on editors. More than just spellcheckers and grammar reviewers, editors (along with their keen, curator’s eye) act as the ultimate, refining polish that reveals the hidden gleam beneath a written piece. Unfortunately, amateur poets seeking to enter poetry competitions have to bargain on themselves to edit their own pieces before entry – a task sometimes more difficult than writing itself. Here, we look at a few top tips for self-publishing writers and poets alike, and how to give your piece its best shot at success.

Gain Some Distance from your Work

Most writers cannot help but fall in love with their own art. After all, it is this passion for their work that comes alive to inspire those who read it. This same enamorment, however, is what might blind an amateur to small faults in their writing. When it comes to poetry competitions, think of your rough draft as bread dough – it is always best to let it rest. Take a break from creative pursuits for a few days and return to your piece after you have forgotten much of what it was about. This way, you are reading it from a fresher perspective, and it is easier to spot changes you wish to make. The better your objectivity, the more productive your editing process will be.

Let the Guidelines Have a Say

Many poetry competitions have a set of guidelines and a theme to give writers some direction. Pay attention to these guidelines as they might have key information on the poem’s length, structure, and overall topic. Even if judges edit entries and overlook spelling and grammar issues, you can still impress by ensuring no such mistakes are made. If the guidelines encourage the use of poetic techniques and devices, make sure you have added a few in, and use your editing process to refine these and see whether or not they work well.

Is it Pleasing to the Eye?

Some poems are famed for their complexity and how tricky they are to navigate – “The Odyssey” by Homer is a superb example of this. Poetry competitions are usually geared towards a wider audience, however, which means that the piece needs to be accessible and easy to digest. People can usually tell from first glance whether the poem they are about to read is going to be enjoyable or more challenging, so consider how the stanzas look on the backdrop of a white paper or screen. If necessary, break up the stanzas and shorten sentences to match in length to create a pleasing first impression of the piece’s aesthetic quality.

Research the Competition and Previous Winners

Poetry competitions are usually created centred around an important topic, brand, or cause. Embracing the essence of the competition is the best way to impress the judges and challenge your own writing with fresh direction. For inspiration, look into the winning poems from previous years and try to explore precisely what it is the judges are seeking – and be sure to use this knowledge during your editing process.

For a closer look at top South African poems as chosen by The AVBOB Poetry Project, visit our poem library and explore thousands of poems in all 11 official languages.