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John Howard Reid

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What Makes Poetry Good?
Thursday, April 15, 2010  9:29:00 PM

by John Howard Reid



Publishing
Welcome to Tom Howard Contest News! These Newsletters are issued on the first day and the fifteenth day of every month, year in, year out.

 

Welcome to Tom Howard Contest News. These Newsletters are issued twice a month and are also posted on http://writing-events.blogspot.com and http://writeway.exactpages.com for easy reference.

For writing advice you can send me questions by using the "ask for advice" form at http://SearchWarp.com/Advice-Columns/Prose-and-Poetry-Advice

"What makes a poem (or a story) good?" is easily the question I'm most frequently asked at writers' conferences. I always reply, "Imagination, inventiveness, intensity!" But this answer is actually a fob-off, because there's much more that a judge must consider. For instance, if you are submitting traditional rhyming verse, it's very difficult to get away from unimaginative rhymes like sun and one, day and way, eye and fly, such and touch, feel and steal. But Linda Dousay uses these rhymes most inventively and with intense feeling in her entry, "Remember You?" (number 34 in the anthology SAILING IN THE MIST OF TIME: Award-Winning Poems). So it's not so much the rhymes themselves, but how you use them that counts.

And I've always maintained that opening and closing lines in a poem or story deserve the writer's closest attention. "Is it worth remembering" is the engaging opening line in David J. Rothman's "Goodbye to Greenpoint" (number 4 in the anthology SAILING IN THE MIST OF TIME: Award-Winning Poems). "Nandi sits alone, untended" Sally Odgers writes in "Spinning Pearls" (number 89 in the above anthology). "It had been easy once" Noble Collins tells us in "Old Hawk" (number 57). "The day you left, now so long ago" Mari Grana recalls in "Three Sonnets to a Love" (number 24).

Of course, it is sometimes necessary to build your opening sentence over two or three lines. As Jose Silva does in "Night" (number 55 in the anthology SAILING IN THE MIST OF TIME: Award-Winning Poems): "A night,/ a night full of murmurs and perfumes,/ of the music of wings".  "Did you hear the argument / I had with our Today?" Dee C. Konrad asks in "Trouble with Time" (number 51). And how about Mimi Moriarty's evocative opening to "Homemade Wine" (number 39): "In autumn when leaves / turn brown, reveal crushed / limbs, then drop like stones / stammering to the ground..."   

This year, as you know, the prize pool for our poetry contests has been increased to $5,550 (including a First Prize of $3,000). Entry fees have not been raised.

To enter your poems in our current poetry contests, you will find full information at http://margaretreid.exactpages.com OR http://poetrycontests.exactpages.com. You will also note that although the prize-money has been increased, entry fees do remain at $7 for every 25 lines.

Unlike almost all other poetry contests, we impose no limits on the number of lines or number of poems you may submit.

For full details, you can also visit the home page of http://www.winningwriters.com and click on the contests at the top left of the screen.

The latest Margaret Reid poetry anthology is Love & City Dreaming: Poems by Margaret Havill Reid. Margaret's range and versatility in this book provide an excellent guide to the verse we are seeking for the Margaret Reid Prize. For instance, free verse is most acceptable. Despite what some people think, FREE VERSE IS A TRADITIONAL VERSE FORM. The Ancient Egyptians wrote free verse. The famous English poet, Christopher Smart (1722-1771), wrote free verse. True, free verse did go out of fashion in the 19th century, but so did many other verse forms such as sestinas, villanelles, roundels, etc. All these forms are acceptable for the Margaret Reid Prize. 

You'll also find plenty of rousing titles and attention-getting poems in our previous anthologies of winning entries from both the Margaret Reid and Tom Howard Contests such as the anthology from which I quoted above, SAILING IN THE MIST OF TIME: Award-Winning Poems in which no less than 108 award-winning and commended poems from both contests are gathered together in a large-format, 196-page book!

Other recommended anthologies are ACROSS THE LONG BRIDGE: An Anthology of Award-Winning Poetry (this is also available in a very attractive hardcover edition) which contains 133 winning and commended entries from both contests and TRAVELING: An Anthology of Award-Winning Poetry which contains 58 winners from the Tom Howard Contest, plus 10 additional poems.

Finally, I'd like to recommend my own book, Write Ways to WIN WRITING CONTESTS: How To Join the Winners' Circle for Prose and Poetry Awards, NEW EXPANDED EDITION.  If you've been wasting your time and money sending out great stories and magnificent poems to Contests that immediately place them in the reject basket, here's an essential book to help you select the RIGHT CONTESTS.

For example, there are a number of prestigious Poetry Contests that NEVER award prizes to traditional rhyming verse, even though they imply in their rules that such forms are acceptable. So how do you separate a suitable contest for your work from one in which you'll just waste your time and money? One of the key recommendations in my Write Ways to WIN WRITING CONTESTS is that you take a look at some of the entries that have won prizes in previous years. This will give you some idea of the types and varieties of poems and stories that have won prizes in the past. Judges may change from year to year for some contests but the sponsors always remain the same. These sponsors always appoint judges who are in complete sympathy with their ideas. So if the XYZ Poetry Contest has never awarded a cash prize for traditional rhyming verse, it's not going to do so this year, even though the judge may be a new face!

All my very best wishes!

John

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