Poetry Competition Season

I’ve suddenly become aware of numerous poetry competitions happening right about now. 

On my desk I have leaflets for: the Poetry London Competition, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Keats-Shelley Prize, The Bridport Prize, Mslexia Poetry Competition, and the National Poetry Competition. If I entered all of these at the absolute minimum fee, it would cost £30.50 total.

Poetry competitions are interesting little beasties. I don’t usually enter them for a number of reasons — the small entry fees add up, fussing about with lots of little cover  letters and stamps seems much more reasonable in ‘batch’ form (as with submitting poems to various publications in regular, non-competition form, which is also, get this, free…)

Probably the main reason is the bafflement I encounter at considering that one judge (or a panel of say, three,) is evaluating hundreds, if not thousands, of poems, and that person’s preference will win out, which is completely fine as he or she is the judge — but the subjectivity of the whole process kind of grinds me to a halt. The liklihood of ‘poem A’ winding up as winner via the channels of ‘poet B’s’ personal preference is just so slim. You may not be surprised to hear I don’t play the lottery, either.

Of course, the attention, prizes and prestige that go with these competitions is a fair reason for people to enter. I do, once in awhile. Hearing of people who write a poem FOR the purpose of a particular competition blows my mind, because I never do: if a poem I have matches a ‘theme,’ great, it may entice me to enter. Again, none of this is bad, especially if it is encouraging people to write.

But then I have a misgiving. Shouldn’t you be writing anyway? Maybe there’s the rub. Competitions aren’t bad, but they are a sideline to the business of writing. They bring a lot of positive attention to the winners and to poetry in general, and they are often paired with really great prizes, like a writing retreat or a reading slot at a literary festival. So enter away, and good luck, but keep writing, competitions or no.

Happy Birthday, Flambard Press!

Flambard Press turns 20 this year, and was championed last night by a reading at the Troubadour by eight of its poets: Wanda Barford, Nancy Mattson, SJ Litherland, Anna McKerrow, Cynthia Fuller, Rebecca Goss, Ellen Phethean, and me.

Yes, that’s an all-female line-up, which was by chance, but helps illustrate how supportive Flambard Press is of female writers.

The lovely Anne-Marie Fyfe, coffee-house poetry organizer, generously introduced Flambard, and then our delightful Managing Editor Will Mackie introduced the poets. I was lucky to get my anxiety over with early on, as I was first to read, and then relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the poets, none of whom I’d had the pleasure to hear before.

And an excellent, varied evening it was — a real demonstration of the breadth of Flambard’s creative talent. From science to sex, seasides to ice fishing, lust, love, and loss — from history to health, home, hearts, and husbands. It was a delight to be part of celebrating Flambard Press, and a delight to read at the famous Troubadour.  Thank you to everyone who came out to support the event. Please do check out Flambard Press and buy a book — particularly by any of the eight poets above  — in celebration of 20  years of excellent publishing!