What few people realize (least of all budding poets themselves) is that if we imagine Poetry as a Person, Poetry is not One Person, but Three People – three people who hate each other so much, they each pretend the other two don't exist.
I call these people Academic Poetry, Popular Poetry and Furor Scribendi Poetry.
Academic Poetry is that favored by universities, foundations, poetry organizations and most of the world's prestigious poetry events, including such prizes as the Bridport. A frequent judge of the Bridport, U.A. Fanthorpe, neatly described the thematic requirements of Academic Poetry in her 2003 Report in which she argued that acceptable entries should be "somber poems about Alzheimer’s, suicide or loss." Although she concedes "there were some splendid comic poems" among the entries, there was no way such poems would qualify for a prize.
Popular Poetry, on the other hand, not only deals with the tragedies of human existence, but equally with the quirks and the comedies. It floats through many forms: didactic, humorous, argumentative, descriptive, narrative, conversational, imaginative, realistic, or purely fanciful. It finds expression in everyday events, everyday people. It homes in on beauty and aspires to lighten burdens and bring gladness and joy to the reader. There is a place for tears as well as smiles, for sorrow that is moving and reflective and sympathetic. Sorrow that doesn’t dwell on ugliness simply for its own sake but seeks to encourage a lifting of the spirits. Two of the world's leading contests for Popular Poetry are the Margaret Reid Prize for Traditional Verse and the Tom Howard Poetry Contest for Verse in All Styles and Genres. Printed anthologies of award-winning poems from these contests include "End of Season", "Traveling", "Across the Long Bridge", and "Sailing in the Mist of Time".
Furor Scribendi is a Latin phrase which means "the urge to write". Most people have this urge to express themselves. Unfortunately, most of the poets in this group are content to do just that: Express themselves! They don't bother to read either widely or narrowly, but happily rhyme "love" with "above" and "moon" with "spoon", fondly imagining that such over-used rhymes and similar trite phrases and hackneyed sentiments are the products of genius. Unfortunately, there are organizations which cater to and encourage this group as a means of making money by printing their woeful efforts in Vanity Press anthologies.
If you are not aware of the above divisions, you can waste an awful lot of time and money joining groups and organizations that regard you with contempt -- let alone submitting poems to unsuitable contests and publishers.
The above information has been abridged from my book, Write Ways To Win Writing Contests.