How to enter poetry contests
- Always read the rules carefully, and again before you post your entry. Abide by the rules - they are there for your guidance. Use the entry form if required.
- Never send your only copy. Keep a photocopy, as entries cannot be returned.
- Keep a record of your entries. Sending the same poem to more than one competition at a time may disqualify you. State if your entry has been published before. If the rules allow, why not send more than one entry?
- Send the correct fee. Many competitions are run on a non-profit basis, so to avoid
problems for the organiser, make sure the cheque or postal order is made out correctly, and payable to the correct name (not always obvious). It is usually unwise to send cash.
- Enclose a SSAE (self stamped addressed envelope). You will want to know the result, so send a large SSAE (with the correct postage), and if you would like to have your entry
acknowledged - send another one. Only use stamps which are acceptable in the country of
posting. Alternatively enclose IRCs (International Reply Coupons) available from Post Offices - at least two for each reply.
- Never ask to alter your work, after you have sent it. This creates the most enormous problems, and expense to the organisation. Most competition organisers are doing this voluntarily.
- Type your work (usually compulsory). However neat one’s handwriting is, there is potentially an element of doubt over spelling, layout or punctuation. Always present your work in the best possible way - imagine it is a CV! Do not send typed poems that have been later altered by hand - do another one. Type your work on plain (no decorations/illustrations) white A4 paper, and unless otherwise instructed always include your name and address separately. Remember to include your name and address! (it does happen). Avoid stapling entries - use paper clips.
- No need to explain! Avoid the temptation to explain why, when and where you wrote your masterpiece! If, however you use a "foreign" word, a note at the bottom will certainly help. Unless asked for an autobiography, it is not necessary to list all your successes!
- Number your sheets. If your poem is longer than one sheet (if that is allowed) continue
on a separate sheet, but make sure you include the title and page number (use a paper clip to hold them together).
- Know the closing date. Is that the "to arrive by" date or "postmark" date. Send in good
time, and preferably by priority mail, if the closing date is imminent.
copyright © Eric Goldsworthy 1997