...or how I learned to stop worrying and NOT win poetry contests

By Harriet Staff

On the Poetic Asides blog of Writer's Digest, retired prolific judge of poetry contests Miriam Sagan offers some helpful advice for those who are just sick to death of the adulation from screaming fans camped out on their lawn that result whenever their poetry takes home a prize. Sagan's guest post is drawn from many years of experience, but mostly comes down to work. If you want to start losing like a pro, better send off the first thing that comes to mind, skip the revisions and don't bother having actually read any poetry or showing your work to other poets. Though you may win some and lose some, don't forget that these contests produce mixed results for the judges, too.

The optimism comes from the fact that so many people actually care enough about poetry to write it and submit it. The pessimism derives from the fact that many of these writers obviously don't read or even know much about contemporary poetry.

To really go for broke, though, try combining tips 9-14 into one submission. Please avoid the temptation to mail it to Poetry.

9. Heck, send whatever you want–a novel chapter, a non-rhyming poem to a rhymed contest, a cycle of poems when you only paid for 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.
11. Submit something pornographic
12. Or a wild-eyed religious rant or
13. Spew hate.
14. Include a note telling the judge why you really should win.

Originally Published: February 18th, 2011