Monday, January 10, 2011

Blog Request - What Are Your Thoughts on Poetry Contests? Part 1 of Many...

It seems many of you are interested in poetry contests, submitting to them, wondering which ones are good, which ones aren't, and any inside information on these contests.

In these upcoming posts throughout January, I'll talk a little bit about poetry contests, what I like, what to look for and my feelings about the whole contest thing.  As you know, everything I write about is based completely on my personal feelings and perspective, but I give you my opinion on honesty based on my experience as a poet from the Northwest.

I will try to share as much as I know and maybe in February we can hear from some poetry contest winners and get their take on things.

So before I begin any of these blog posts, I want to give you some info on my experience with contests and who I am, as I feel we each have things that skew, change, or form our opinions.  So here's where I've been...

Facts about me and my life as a poetry book contests entrant:

My book won the White Pine Press Poetry Prize in 2009.  I submitted not knowing the judge was Carl Dennis, but knowing I liked the press.

Before that, I had submitted to over 70 contests over a 5 year period.  I had been named semi-finalist and finalist in several.  I had my manuscript be one of twenty, one of ten, or in a number of other manuscripts given the judge to choose from.  Up until fall of 2009, it had been rejected after being a bridesmaid so many times.

My first book did not win the Cherry Grove Collections Book Prize and instead was a finalist.  The editor asked to publish my book then.  While since I tend not to regret anything because it's brought to where I am today, I might have done things differently with my first book, but more on that later.

While submitting to contests, I had enough money to submit to a certain number of contests each year and still afford, rent, warmth, and food.

I tend to be optimistic, though sometimes that falls a little bit into the realm of magical thinking.

While I do feel there have been some contests and/or judges that tend to be a little shady and perhaps, have given the prize to a friend, colleague or student, I believe most small presses and contests operate with integrity and do their very best to keep things honest and fair.


So as you read these posts, please know my history with contests, I had luck in a poetry contest, so my perspective may be skewed or may see them more favorable.  I'm not sure.




  1. thanks for doing this series--i'm working on sending out my first full-length poetry manuscript this year, and it's great to hear from soneone who's been-there done-that =)

  2. Well, since you asked for thoughts...I know several poets who broke out into the poetry scene this way...a former professor of mine won the Starrett Prize in 2009 and got a book out that way. Personally, I haven't entered any contests with an entry fee, because I can't justify it financially. So, I look for contests without entry fees or presses who don't have reading fees. That said, I think it's great when others are discovered through this method.


Always love to hear from you...and the anonymous option is open for those feeling shy.

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