12.10.2005

Poetry contests

"Even if you win, including that in a query letter is akin to telling an agent you won Miss Snark's 25 word contest to finish the news story. Cute, fun, and useless in terms of demonstrating your ability to write a full length novel."

Is this always the case? I am a poet and a novelist (sigh, one no market, the other an impossible market. . .) and at least for poetry, one of the only ways to get published is to win a juried contest. I currently have a book length poetry manuscript entered in one such (very well regarded) small press contest. Should hell freeze over or lightning strike and I actually either make finalist or win, wouldn't that credit strengthen my query letters for my novels?


Poetry contests are an entirely different category. Contests are almost the only way to get noticed by presses. That's cause very few (approaching infinite zero probably) agents handle poetry.

Of course poetry contest scandals were quite the topic this year. Google "Foetry" and see what you get!

And make sure the contest is sponsored by a reputable college or press. There are several places where "you're a winner" is a form letter with an invoice.

Good luck in the contest.

4 comments:

Mad Scientist Matt said...

There are several places where "you're a winner" is a form letter with an invoice.

Ah, yes, I entered one in high school and they sent me a form letter saying I was a semifinalist. Since I was mostly hoping I'd be eligable for some even bigger prize they'd hinted at, I didn't want to buy their anthology. Back then, though, I was naive enough to think that bookstores would carry it. I also wonder if anyone's actually won that grand prize they hinted they give out.

Got all sorts of ridiculous invitations from this outfit too, wanting me to buy things that cost a couple hundred dollars.

sherryfair said...

Oh, hang in there with your poetry MS. That's all I can say. Here, maybe my story will help you: I sent my first-book MS to contests from 1999-2001. (I had finished it in 1998, but held it back & revised it for a full year before putting it out there.) I did not count how many contests I entered it in, but I suspect it's about 25-30. All the while, it kept shedding old poems & I kept adding newer, stronger poems. The MS went through a major reshuffling and got a title change toward the end, which really helped. Then a portion of it won a chapbook contest, and that encouraged me to keep circulating the full MS. If you're a finalist and a semi-finalist in several times in a row, be VERY encouraged, rather than the opposite. (This happened 10 times to me before the book was ultimately taken.) In the end, my poetry MS was accepted in October 2001 over the transom by one of the few poetry publishers who weren't running contests. And I had the pleasure of sending polite, non-gloating, to-the-point e-mails to withdraw it from other, pending contests (and heard it had become a finalist in several of those, and was down to the final two in another, so boy, was that editor glad to hear from me!). All this to tell you, if your MS doesn't win this contest, be persistent. And keep scrutinizing it, looking for ways to make it better & better. And keep that photocopier going. It does happen. Really.

LJCohen said...

Thanks, Miss Snark--yes--this is a reputable press (www.tupelopress.org) that follows a strict code of ethics written in the wake of the 'foetry' scandal.

Unfortunately, on the poetry workshop board I moderate, we are always having to remind folks about poetry.com and other such scams.

Sal said...

My favorite poetry contest (no entry fee, grand prize $1069 -- yes, I said one thousand sixty-nine dollars, US) is the Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest from Winning Writers.

Current contest closes April 1, 2006. For this contest, "We seek the best humor poem that has been sent to a 'vanity poetry contest' as a joke."

Submit only one poem.
Poems must be in English.
Poems can be of any length.