The AVBOB Poetry Competition | Enjoy Entering Poetry Competitions? Here's Why to Try Persona Poems

Enjoy Entering Poetry Competitions? Here is Why to Try Persona Poems

Poetry competitions offer poets the unique opportunity to showcase their work by doing what they do best – writing from the heart and personal experience. As a writer, nobody else has your voice or your perspective. Poetry competitions usually give much room to move within a specific subject or theme, and this freedom may be intimidating for some poets.

Then, there is the fact that these contests come with deadlines that force the writer to meet the due date or forfeit entering at all. If you have a few poetry competitions lined up this year and find yourself seeking a little inspiration for your poems, one excellent idea is to adopt an alternate perspective. At first, writing in this way may seem unorthodox, but once you master the art of persona poems, a whole new set of ideas become available.

Stepping Out of Your Box

Persona poems are pieces that assume the voice of a real or imagined character other than the writer. Moving away from the typical, confessional “I” perspective seen in most poems, persona poetry requires not just empathy, but an understanding of who the adopted character is and how their traits would influence their “voice”. For amateur and professional poets alike, this is a major exercise in imagination and often requires the writer to stretch beyond their usual way of viewing the world.

There are various ways to approach writing in this way, and the poetry competitions you enter will have guidelines and topics to help streamline your choices.

Adopt a Historical Figure

Within persona poems, the most difficult perspective from which to write is the one belonging to someone who actually lived. Quite a few poems have been written in this style, either taking on the voice of a famous figure from the past, or simply someone the writer knew in their own life. One such poem is Rita Dove’s “Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Return to Vienna”. In her poem, Dove goes to great lengths to research a period in the musician Beethoven’s life, narrating the passion behind a man often misunderstood by the world. Biographical poetry of this nature does have the power to sway the audience’s views on the person, so choosing to write such a piece means that you will need to do a fair amount of homework and pay close attention to how your words depict someone who lived.

Holding a Conversation

Many individuals have running dialogues with themselves throughout the day. Debating what brand of toothpaste to buy or whether to pursue a new goal are just some examples of the internal conversations we carry inside of us. Translating this kind of back-and-forth into a poem need not be difficult, either. In her poem, “Death is a Dialogue Between”, Emily Dickinson uses a mere eight lines to depict a conversation from the perspective of disembodied concepts, such as “spirit” and “death”, both with their own opposing views.

Writers may also investigate two-voice poems in which their piece is meant to be read by two (or even more) readers. “Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices” is a famed children’s book by Paul Fleischman that features pieces written from the perspective of two insect personas.

The Perspective of Nature

Thomas Hardy’s poem, “A Popular Personage at Home” is a piece written from the viewpoint of his treasured dog, Wessex. The poem conveys the simplicity and playfulness of his canine companion’s life and proves that persona poems need not always be about people. Children who enter writing competitions, in particular, may find writing from the perspective of an animal, plant, or natural element, offers valuable direction.

Create a New Character

Some poems and books are considered semi-autobiographical because the piece creates a new character that deals partly with the writer’s real life. Poems do not need to be so closely intertwined with the writer, however, and the poet is free to create a brand new character – even one different to themselves in every way. Not only does this push the writer’s boundaries when it comes to their creativity, but it may give the poet much freedom when it comes to creating a narrative they would be too hesitant to explore in their own voice.

If you are keen on exploring poetry competitions and how other writers choose to approach these competitions, why not have a look at our library of past poems here.