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Unread 02-06-2018, 06:58 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,481

Every publisher has a right to an aesthetic. If I were a judge of a contest, there are certain styles of poetry less likely to win by virtue of my beliefs on what matters in poetry; it's incumbent on the submitter to recognize and research these.

Where Shivani's right, though, is that there is an air of democratic principles that undergird many of these, and that's pure phoniness. Poetry, fair or not, has always been undemocratic, and every judge has an aesthetic preference.
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Unread 02-06-2018, 07:19 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,587

The honest thing, I think, which some presses do, is to strongly encourage submitters to discover just what agenda their press (or judge) has by reading past work. Other presses (and judges) imply or indeed state that they are open to all genres and aesthetics, which indeed will not always be the case, if ever. Examples are legion.

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Unread 02-06-2018, 04:21 PM
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Gail White Gail White is offline
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Breaux Bridge, LA, USA
Posts: 3,319

Agree with Ned. For those of us who want to write formal poetry, we are just wasting our money by entering most contests other than the Wilbur, Justice, and Able Muse. (Full disclosure: my Able Muse book, Asperity Street, won no money but was published on the kind recommendation of Molly Peacock. I'm still trying for the other two.)
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Unread 02-06-2018, 06:12 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 7,753

I also look at prizes that sometimes publish formal poetry, such as the Hecht Prize at Waywiser. Unfortunately, the presses that have published a formal work just a few times are often bad bets, because it turns out that the judge then was open to formal poetry, but the press does not let you know in advance who will be judging the contest (in this category I would put the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize at Ohio University Press and the T.S. Eliot Prize at Truman State University Press). The real iceberg is the screeners. If they are in an MFA program, most of them will have been taught to avoid formal verse like the plague. In those cases, it helps to know what the focus of the MFA program is that is running the contest. I have heard that Measure Press is willing to consider manuscripts outside the contest framework, so you might want to consider them

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Unread 02-06-2018, 09:54 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Connecticut, USA
Posts: 5,716

This has been a very interesting and informative discussion! I have enjoyed and learned something from each of your posts. I think two key points are (if you decide to enter manuscript contests): A) Keep in mind that the screeners will pass only those poems to the judge that are not too unusual and B) know something about the judge’s own writing style(s) and tastes.

I wish you all good luck in whatever contests you choose to enter.
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Unread 02-06-2018, 10:28 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 4,174

Enough bad news here to sink The Good Ship Lollipop. Why do we do it? We're all cuckoo, every one.
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Unread 02-08-2018, 12:54 PM
Barbara Loots Barbara Loots is offline
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Kansas City, MO
Posts: 150

Just wondering...if you do enter a publishing competition and happen to win, what do you get? A published book, yes. Any free copies? Listing in a catalog? Promotional advertising? Paid World Reading Tour (just kidding!)

I've saved a lot of money with the perspective that the odds of my winning a poetry manuscript contest are just slightly shy of PowerBall.

The other perspective? No longer is "self-publishing" or some digital version of it the realm of poetasters only. New publishing opportunities such as Kelsay Books, and self-publishing services online, are an alternative: you don't pay for publication, but enjoy publishing expertise. If I have to do my own promotion, I might as well own my own books, or some quantity of them anyway.

Poetry prestige? Duh.

I've always aimed to write the best poems I can in order to hang out with the best poets I know. So far so good.

Cheers all!
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