The AVBOB Poetry Competition | Poetry Contests | How to Prepare for a Poetry Contest

Poetry Contests Take Some Preparation – Here is How to Do it

What makes for a prize-winning poem? You may have a tough time getting a straight answer from most people because all art, even poetry, is subjective. Poetry contests graciously allow us a little more clarity on what the judges expect and how best to impress them, but it doesn’t stop there. You can stick to all the rules and ensure all the requirements are in place, but your piece could still fall flat. The last thing you want is to bore the judges with words as dry as the paper upon which they are written. Despite the creative challenges, there are still plenty of ways to add a little panache to any poem – and it all starts with the right kind of preparation.

Time is Your Greatest Friend

The written word requires brainstorming, drafting, editing, and even re-editing. A simple poem can take ages to write, especially if your perfectionism always gets the best of you. When entering poetry contests, ensure that you don’t leave the hard work until it’s too late. Ample time also allows you to simmer on certain concepts, refine them, or scrap them altogether. Time is a great asset to you, but too little of it makes a formidable enemy. When entering a competition, be sure to look at the day and hour it closes. Plotting out your expected progress on a calendar may be helpful too.

Take Big Risks Without Fear

The worst that can happen is your poem doesn’t win. This, thankfully, does not mean the entire process was a waste. Just because your piece was not what the judges were seeking for the competition, does not mean it is a sub-par poem. You might not win the prize money or that publishing deal, but you gain experience from poetry contests – which is often infinitely more valuable. There is one, sure-fire way to ensure you lose, however, and that is to enter something boring. Bear in mind that the judges sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of poems – and yours needs to stand out. You want your poem to excite, enthral, or surprise your audience. Anything that presents a valid, authentic voice while keeping things captivating will require a few artistic risks, but that’s how every artist grows.

Gather Your Inspiration

A fully fleshed-out poem takes time to develop. Inspiration can strike anywhere, which certainly gets the ball rolling, but you should keep your eyes peeled for it. Pay attention to striking words and phrases you encounter in reading material and online articles. Spend time doing things that get you thinking about life, such as hobbies out in nature or other artistic pursuits. Assimilate new insights and concepts you learn into your creative process and allow them to impose upon your writing. In this way, your experiences inform your art, which gives it more meaning. Poetry contests usually revolve around themes and writing prompts that will help you look for inspiration in the right places.

Refine Your Work as Needed

It can be difficult to take a knife to your work and cut content that just isn’t working. In a successful poem there is cohesion, the parts hang together. If your instincts tell you to question a line or an image, it is time to look at it again and to remove it if necessary. With every line, ask the question, “Does this add anything to the poem?”

Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously

Poems can be serious and austere, but it can also be fun. The same is true for the other arts. Once you have mastered the form and are fluent with the various techniques, you can focus your attention on the emotional aspects of the poems, namely fluidity and passion. You want to create something that flows with balance and harmony, something the audience will be excited to read. Showcasing your ability to delight in your work is the mark of a true artist, and the contests you enter will appreciate this quality. Plan carefully and wisely, and when the time comes, use your pen to dance.

Poetry contests are a healthy challenge to tackle, and we believe that every writer (from amateurs to professionals) has what it takes to hone their craft. If you are looking for inspiration or ideas, you can look through the successful entries of previous contests here.