One of the promises I made to myself as I am in the final stretches of attaining a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is that I will submit my poems to contests and literary and poetry journals. These are all steps on my journey to my ultimate goal of becoming U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.
In my last post I wrote about joining organizations I feel are beneficial to furthering your appreciation, education, and quality of writing poetry. Some of the organizations I mentioned are state poetry organizations, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, the Academy of American Poets, American Poetry Review, Association of Writers & Writing Programs, the Poetry Foundation, and the Poetry Society of America. Many of these organizations offer contests and while many of them are open to the public, there are a few only open to members. If you do some research, you can find several “free to enter” contests, while others require small submission fees. The prizes range anywhere from publication on the organization’s website to chapbook publication offers and even thousands of dollars in prize money.
I encourage you to take the next step and research some contests that appeal to you. Don’t like sonnets or villanelles or you feel that you are unable to write them? There are plenty of contests out there for contemporary, free verse poetry. There are contests for ekphrastic poetry. There are contests for haiku and lunes and landays and zip odes and spoon river poems. There are rhyming poetry contests and themed poetry contests for just about anything you can think of. Many of the contests available open and close on a rotating basis annually. The National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ submission period generally runs from January 1st through March 15th. The Florida State Poets Association submission period is open from May 1st through July 15th annually. Other contests are run weekly or monthly.
I was going to put together a comprehensive list of every contest I found in Microsoft Excel and sort by deadline, but it turns out there are websites which do just that. Trish Hopkinson’s blog, A Selfish Poet is one of the best I’ve seen. Recently she featured a site called Submishmash which lists countless contests by poetry, fiction, nonfiction, visual art, or all. It further sorts the content by deadline or “random.”
My only word of caution is to not overwhelm yourself and burden yourself by attempting to take on too many submissions. This should be fun! Make your own small list of contests you are interested in and focus on those. Expand your list if you want, but always enjoy the process and the rewards!