Archive for category Poetry

What Makes A Good Poem?

It was a good meeting at my writing group last week. There weren’t many of us but everyone had brought something to read and had also written it with a market in mind, including Woman’s Weekly, People’s Friend, National Women’s Register short story competition (restricted to NWR members only, unfortunately) and a Writers’ News competition.

But Iona had also written a beautiful poem that was looking for a home. It was a moving verse about a soldier trying to find peace. I liked the poem because it was accessible. It rhymed (and none of the rhymes were forced) and the language was easily understood. This led onto a discussion about whether poems should or shouldn’t rhyme and how some, much praised, poems are often difficult to understand.

I rarely write poetry (because I’m not much good at it) but when I do attempt the odd verse I automatically make it rhyme and try to give it some sort of recognisable meter. More often than not it tells a story too – I find purely descriptive poems difficult. But my poems usually end up sounding rather childish and I don’t know whether this is because of the rhyming or just a reflection of my poor writing.

Of course, not all free verse is difficult to understand, I’ve just discovered ‘You’re Beautiful’ by Simon Armitage – have a read, it’s wonderful.

What do you think makes a good poem? Should it have a recognisable form and meter or should the poet be free to compose however he or she wishes?

And just in case you’ve come over all poetic, I’ve found a free to enter poetry competition. Blue Mountain Arts is offering prizes of $300, $150 and $50. You can enter by email as many times as you like and the closing date is June 30th 2012. Full details are here. Interestingly they state, “Poems can be rhyming or non-rhyming, although we find that non-rhyming poetry reads better.”

, , , ,


Happiness Poetry Competition

I’ve had an email from Alex Black of Following on from their previous successful poetry competition (which I mentioned on this blog some months ago) they are running another FREE poetry competition to win £100.

Alex describes the competition as follows:

There’s a £100 prize, and no entry fee – so your readers have nothing to lose if they enter. (They also, of course, keep the rights to their poem, although we’d like to post the winning entry on our blog – with their permission).
The theme is on happiness (anything that will make us smile). There are, as ever, a few rules:
– Open to all
– No entry fee
– Poems must be in English, and no longer than 45 lines
– Must be the original work of the entrant
– Deadline is April 9th, 2012, with the winner to be announced shortly after
Full details, including the competition email address, can be found here.
So put on a smile and write a happy poem!  


Mature Times and Yours

I picked up a copy of Mature Times in the library this week. This is a free monthly publication aimed at retired people of both sexes and this edition (February 2012) contains the following announcement, which may be of interest to anyone writing poetry:

From next month, Mature Times will publish a reader’s poem in our Poem of the Month competition. Entries will be judged by our literary critic, Jacky Edgell, and the winner will receive a Mature Times pen set. Please submit your poem to; Poem of the Month Competition, Mature Times, Highwood House, Winters Lane, Redhill, Bristol BS40 5SH or email:

I also bought a copy of Yours magazine. This is a fortnightly publication, again aimed at older people and I guess more women read it than men. Usually it carries one short story per issue but this one (Feb 21 –  Mar 5 2012) contains two stories, and one of those is the first instalment of a two-part story. This may be a one-off or it may be an indication that Yours is going to start carrying more fiction, including short serials. I’ve got my fingers crossed for the latter! 

Finally, talking of serials, I won the competition on Womag’s blog to write the first 200 words of a crime serial!! Geraldine Ryan was the judge and provided the prize – a copy of her new book, Leave Over. This book contains two (previously published) complete serials, so I’m looking forward to reading it and maybe picking up some tips.

, ,


Alan Sillitoe Open Poetry Competition

When entering a competition it’s always nice to know where the entry fees are going. The Alan Sillitoe Open Poetry

Gee, that pained expression looks mighty famil...

Image by wynlok via Flickr

Competition is raising funds to commission a statue of him, in Nottingham (£50,000 is needed). Alan died in 2010 and was one of Nottingham’s most distinguished 20th century writers.

Poems can be on any subject but must be no more than 40 lines. Entry fee is £3 (or £10 for 4 poems). Entry is by post only. The closing date is 10th January 2012 and winners will be notified in February. Full details are here.

If you are a fan of Sillitoe’s work (Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner etc.) you can make a donation to the statue fund here and be mentioned on their ‘Wall of Honour’.



Print Express Poetry Competition

Alex Black contacted me last week and asked if I’d give a mention to the poetry competition that his company,, is running. So here goes:

  • Entry is free!
  • First prize is £150
  • Poems can be on any theme and up to 45 lines long
  • Entry is via email
  • Closing date is November 30th 2011

Full details can be found here

So with nothing to lose in entry fees or postage, even a non-poet like me might enter!

, ,


Poetry, Pictures and Andrew McMillan

On Saturday I went to Morley in Yorkshire to collect my certificate for the Friends of Morley Literature Festival ShortSally Jenkins - Morley Literature Festival Story Competition. It was a lovely evening which featured Andrew McMillan (not sure if he’s any relation to Ian) reading poetry that had been written for a special project undertaken in conjunction with the Literature Festival.

Four families in the area chose paintings from Leeds Art Gallery to hang in their homes for 3 months. Andrew went out to visit these families and talk to them about how they felt about the art works. He then used these conversations as triggers for poems. Three local schools also chose pictures to hang in their classrooms for a similar project but this time the children wrote the poems with Andrew acting as their mentor.

Andrew has a wonderful way of performing poetry and he brought the children’s colourful language & unusual ideas to life with his gestures, timing and strong regional accent. Similarly, hearing him read his own poems made them so much more vivid (for a non-poet like me) than simply reading words on a page.

So, to be a successful poet do you have to be able to perform with panache  and carry the audience with your words? Or can you succeed as a shrinking violet? I imagine that few people buy books of poetry these days and therefore a confident performance is essential to build a following.

The evening continued with a gig by the comedian Arthur Smith (of Grumpy Old Men). He was brilliant but surprised me by including poems (which he knew off by heart) in his act. My favourite was The Mower by Philip Larkin, which is a rather sad tale about a hedgehog.

Also – until midnight on Friday (14th October 2011) I am donating £1 to the RNIB for each new subscriber to this blog. Simply enter your email address in the box on the right – it’s free and you can unsubscribe at any time. More information is here.

, , ,


The British Haiku and Haibun Awards 2011

Grave of YosaBuson (与謝蕪村墓)

Image via Wikipedia

Most of us a probably familiar with the Haiku poetic form (even if, like me, you can never remember exactly how many syllables there should be) but have you heard of the Haibun?

According to the leaflet for the British Haiku Awards 2011, a Haibun must contain at least 100 words of prose plus at least one haiku, and must not exceed 2,500 words in length. The haibun should be given a title. Examples of Haibun can be found here.

It looks a pretty challenging form of poetry (and prose).

There is £125 first prize in both the Haiku and Haibun sections of the awards. The Haiku section also has two runners-up prizes of £50 and the leaflet states ‘as the number of entries for the haibun category increases it is hoped eventually to bring this into line with the haiku category and award runner-up prizes as well’.  I take it that this means there are fewer entries for the haibun – so it may well be worth having a go! Closing date is 31 January 2012 and full details are on the website.

In case you’re wondering, the picture is the grave stone of Yosa Buson, a Japanese Haiku poet.



Help for Heroes Poetry Competition

Help for Heroes Sign at the Defence Medical Re...

Image by Defence Images via Flickr

When entering a writing competition it’s nice to think that your entry fee has gone to a worthy cause – it softens the blow of not making it to the short-list!

The Help For Heroes charity is running a poetry competition. First prize is £250 in Primark vouchers and there is no fixed entry fee but entrants are asked to donate at least a pound per poem and all money raised will go to the charity.

The judge is Peter Quinn, managing director of United Press and he is asking for, ” …poems related to Help for Heroes. It could be a poem about an individual or it could be a poem with a message.”

The winner will also have their poem published in a general collection of modern poetry and will receive a free copy of the book as well as attending a prize presentation.

The closing date is November 11th 2011 and full details on how to enter can be found here.

This is a cheap to enter competition for a worthy cause – why not give it a go?

, ,


Poetry Competitions

William Blake's "The Tyger," publish...

Image via Wikipedia

The library was full of leaflets for poetry competitions. I only do poetry very badly so I won’t be entering but here are the details for the rest of you:

  • Sonnet or Not organised by Cannon Poets.  Choose one of the traditional sonnet forms or experiment with alternative 14 line forms. First prize £250 and entry fee is £4 for the first poem and £2.50 for each additional poem. Closing date is 31st October 2011. For full details email
  • Nottingham Open Poetry Competition. First prize £300 and entry fee is £3 per poem or £10 for 4 poems. Closing date is 6th September 2011. Full details plus last year’s winners are here.
  • Torbay Open Poetry Competition. This is organised as part of Torbay Poetry Festival and has a huge £800 first prize plus a Prizegiving Party in Torquay. Entry is £4 per poem or £10 for 3 poems. Closing date is 31st August 2011. An entry form is required and I suggest you use the contact form on the Festival website to request one.  

In case you’re wondering – the illustration is William Blake’s poem ‘The Tyger’.

If you’re not yet signed up for a free email subscription to this blog, use the box on the right to enter your email address and you could become the next keeper of my World Book Night books.



National Trust Poetry Competition

The National Trust sign at Lizard Point, Cornwall

Image via Wikipedia

The National Trust is calling for poems inspired by a special outdoor place for their Landlines Competition.

The prize is something money can’t buy – a special day with National Trust staff at either an outdoors location or behind the scenes at one of the NT properties in the winners’ chosen region. In addition the winners in each category will have their poem published in the autumn 2011 edition of National Trust Magazine. The winners and five runners-up will also receive a copy of Ode to the Countryside – the NT collection of poetry celebrating the British landscape.

The judge is the poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan. He says, “The open air, the layers of landscape, the endlessly changing weather and the way that buildings and places can evoke memory are all grist to the poet’s mill.”

So it should be easy to find plenty of inspiration to get you going! 

There are two categories – ‘Under 16′  and ’16 and Over’.  Only one poem per entrant is allowed and each poem should be no longer than 20 lines. There is no entry fee.

The closing date is 31 March 2011 and entry is by email or post. For full details of where to send your poems click here

And don’t forget, there’s only a week to go before I draw the winner of the Stieg Larsson books. Details are here.