As a poet and literary tutor, I’ve been asked to critique many poems by poets to be submitted for contests . What strikes me about these contests is both optimistic and pessimistic. 


This comes from the fact that some poets actually care enough about poetry to write it and submit it. 


This derives from the fact that many of these writers obviously don’t read or even know much about contemporary poetry.

There are a few simple things any poet can do to vastly increase the chances of winning a poetry contest.

I thought it would be fun, however, to lecture on how to NOT win a poetry contest. 

NB: This are personal opinions though, I stand to be corrected.

1. Write your poem in total isolation. Don’t read contemporary poetry– after all– you don’t want to be influenced, even by great bards. 

2. Don’t revise. Don’t bring the poem to a 'established' bards, or critique group, or ask a friend. Who cares what anyone thinks, it is your poem. 

3. Don’t read the poem aloud to see if it is finished. 
Why disturb your napping cat? Besides no be Spoken Word Poetry, right?

4. Ignore the craft of poetry–feelings don’t need images or metaphors, right?

5. Use a hackneyed lone syllabic title like “Scream” or “Sweetheart.”

6. Content? What the heck is that? Isn’t a poem supposed to be obscure?

7. To hell with rules! Disregard the specified rules of the contest. Who are they to regulate your muse.

8. Go over the line or word limit–after all, it is your favorite poem!

9. Heck, send whatever you want–a novel chapter, a non-rhyming poem to a rhymed contest, an anthology of poems when they only need one. How uptight can these judges be?

10. Use teeny tiny type (maybe no one will notice it is over the line limit) or gigantic cursive or handwriting or attach a photo of your puppy or pretty boo.

11. Submit something pornographic. Who doesn't like sex.

12. Send wild-eyed religious rant.

13. Spew hate. Something tribalist. One of the judges might be from that tribe. I pity you.

14. Blow your trumpet. Include a note telling the judge why you really should win. 

15. If you don’t win, curl up in a ball and absolutely decide to stop writing. Or try hanging.

16. Never enter another contest again.

If you follow all these steps I can guarantee you will never win a poetry contest.

On the other hand, if you avoid these steps you just might win!