Saturday, January 17, 2015

Advice on following submission guidelines – 1) Poetry

Would you send a poem about circumcision and vasectomy to a competition inviting submissions from poems “addressing the beauty of the English language”?
Of course not - however, it appears not everyone reads the submission guidelines.

Whether you are submitting a full manuscript to a publisher, an article to a magazine or a poem or short story to a competition, the most important thing is to read the rules carefully and follow them to the letter.

 Some years ago, I won a prize in a poetry competition, not because of the eloquence of my poetry but because there were only four entries that fulfilled the requirements.

So what was the problem?
The competition was called: The Penis Poetry Prize.
A vulgar title, you may say – and the title alone misled most writers and they ignored the rest.

Please read on.
The poetry competition was set up in protest against a previously run poetry competition titled The Vagina Monologues which had attracted over 1000 entries.

The response to The Penis Poetry Prize was dismal.

Of the fifteen entries received, only four (including my own) correctly addressed the subject matter which had specified – a protest poem against the debasement of the English language and the near pornographic dialogue of The Vagina Monologues.

The judges wanted “poems emphasizing the beauty of the English language”.

Eleven of the fifteen entries completely ignored the guidelines and were returned to the writers.
According to a press release, one poem discussed circumcision and vasectomy while “two others sang rather crude praise to Viagra.”
In fact “one entrant attached a memo to the effect that, in the event of his winning, he would decline the award as he already had a prize penis of his own”.

You may laugh.
But on a serious note much can be learned from this.

1)     Never feel there is no point in submitting an entry because the number of competitors  may be too great. Who’s to know how many entries will be received? Remember – you have to be in it to win it!
2)     If you don’t read the guideline correctly and address the subject matter as required, you are wasting both your own time and that of the competition organizers.
3)     By not following the guidelines you may succeed in one thing only – making a laughing-stock of yourself.   

A poem that won a prize because no one bothered to read the guidelines:

the wordsmith

words from the Bard’s anvil
thrum resonance
the rhythmic stroke of  every hammer fall
pounding the brain
with image and experience           
as smithy’s furnace gasps
for bellows’ breath of inspiration

worker of words
honed on the whetstone of life
tempers reality
remoulds the dark crystals
with burning fervour
forging the fluid
lines of dialogue
fired with passion

Poetic Alchemist
your gilded words
reflect the hidden secrets of the stone


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