Poetry is a popular creative outlet among all kinds of people, but attitudes to one’s own work can differ greatly. While some prefer to keep their poems private, others are keen to share their work with others.
One popular way that budding poets share their work is through entering poetry competitions.
There are many advantages to submitting your work to be judged other than the possibility of a prize; some writing competitions offer feedback on your work, regardless of how far you get in the competition, and some organisations may publish entrants’ work in an anthology or poetry collection – so you might even get spotted!
Whatever your motives for entering your work in to a poetry competition, whether you have one poem you’re particularly proud of, or you simply want to share your work with the general public, entering a competition is a great way to get to know the world of poetry in a new way, one which will boost your self-esteem both in general and as a poet.
It may surprise you to know that the world of poetry competitions is diverse in several aspects.
Some competitions involve writing poetry around a certain theme, while others impose a word limit, a certain rhyme scheme or a particular form such as a haiku, however, you don’t even have to be a poet yourself, as there are also poetry recitation competitions to choose from.
If you’re looking for information on the different types of poetry competition, or you’d like to find a competition to enter, you’ve come to the right place!
Find good poetry lessons here.
How to Find Poetry Writing Contests to Enter
Once you’ve written a poem you’re proud of, entering it into a competition is often the next big step – but where do you find out about poetry contests?
Nowadays, the internet is the first port of call when looking for anything. There are many poetry websites which offer information on competitions, including entry requirements and fees as well as submission deadlines.
The National Poetry Library has helpfully compiled a list of open poetry competitions for users to browse, so why not take a look and see if there’s anything that suits your writing?
Creative Writing Ink is another organisation which features many competitions taking place throughout the UK. As the name suggests, Creative Writing Ink encompasses all literary genres, from poetry to flash fiction and from playwriting to creative nonfiction essays, so if you’re interested in other areas in addition to writing poems, such as writing short fiction stories, you’ll also be able to find places to submit your poetic and non-poetic work.
The Poetry Society is well-known for its many prestigious competitions and awards. It doesn’t just cater to experienced poets, but it is also keen to spot young talent through contests such as Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award and SLAMbassadors. So, regardless of your age, there will be something you can enter.
While the three organisations mentioned above will inform you about the poetry competitions taking place, it’s important to bear in mind that their level of exposure will attract lots of entrants, so don’t be disheartened if your poem doesn't place.
If you’re just finding your feet as a new poet, or you’d like to get used to the format of poetry competitions, you might prefer to enter smaller competitions first.
Many smaller poetry competitions are held within communities, sometimes by Rotary Clubs, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled in your local press!
Entering a Magazine Poem Competition
It can be thrilling to see your own poetry published online or in print, and this is exactly why entering poetry competitions which are attached to a poetry magazine or blog in some way can give you the boost you need to persevere with your work.
Unlike many competitions, which only promise cash prizes for first, second and third place (as well as some other goodies thrown in), some organisations also offer to publish a selection of work from non-placing entrants.
Not only will the possibility of having your work featured in a competition anthology increase your chances of success in your poetry, but it will also give you an incentive other than the main prize to focus on.
So, which competitions offer this chance to contestants?
Here are a couple of annual contests which run alongside literary magazines or anthologies:
- Mslexia Poetry Competition
This competition is open to female poets and offers a £25 prize to 17 finalists whose poems will be featured alongside the three winning pieces in a copy of the writing magazine, Mslexia. In addition to this, selected poems from finalists will be featured in the Poetry Book Society bulletin and website. There is also a cash prize for the best poem by an unpublished poet.
- Live Canon International Poetry Competition
Live Canon’s poetry competition offers publication of 50 longlisted poems in the annual Live Canon Anthology (available for purchase on Amazon) in addition to its £1000 for the best poem overall. They also run a children’s poetry competitions for those in school years 1 to 13 with a promise of publishing the top 100 poems in the anthology alongside the longlisted pieces by adults.
Popular UK Poetry Competitions
All you have to do is a simple Google search and you’ll come across thousands of poetry competitions to enter. The world of poetry is vast and diverse, and the types of competitions available reflect this, however, there are several poetry competitions which carry a certain type of prestige.
The most prestigious creative writing contests are often the ones which are most widely known and respected. For instance, 500 words, which is run by BBC Radio 2, has gained lots of exposure (and therefore respect) through being discussed on-air.
Of course, entering a widely-known competition means that your chances of success are significantly slimmer, however, this makes a potential victory all-the-more appealing!
Here are some of the most highly-respected poetry competitions in the UK:
- National Poetry Competition
With the possibility of winning a £5000 cash prize for first place, entrants are invited to submit their previously unpublished work. You can enter your poem online or by post, and entries cost £7 for the first submission and £4 for each poem after that.
Poems submitted to this contest must not exceed 40 lines (not including the title) and entrants must be at least 17 years old on the day of the deadline. Failure to comply with these rules could get you disqualified.
- Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award
The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is an annual contest open to all emerging poets between the ages of 11 and 17 years old. This award is by far the most famous and most prestigious poetry award for young writers. Poems can be on any topic, and there is no entry fee!
- The Betjeman Poetry Prize
The Betjeman Poetry Prize, given in memory of poet laureate John Betjeman, is open to poets aged 10-13 from the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Poems must be based on a certain theme (given to entrants each year), and there is £500 prize money for the winning poem!
- Bridport Prize
The Bridport prize is a creative writing competition which is open to poets, novelists, and writers of short stories. Entrants can be of any nationality and may live anywhere in the world. With a first prize winner taking home £5000, and £1000 for second place, this is a popular contest to enter! Why not give it a go?
Have a Go at Poetry Reading
For those who are less passionate about writing poems and, instead, simply enjoy reading others’ work, poetry recitation competitions are a fantastic way to get stuck into the world of poetry whilst getting to grips with the fine details of individual poems as you learn to perform them aloud before an audience.
Poetry recitation competitions are different to poetry writing contests in that they tend to be smaller-scale. This is because entrants are required to travel to a performance venue on the day of the poetry contest – something that is not necessary when submitting a piece of work.
For this reason, you’ll likely find that such contests run on a community or regional level. However, there are some, such as Poetry by Heart, which take place on a much larger scale and allow video submissions of poetry recitals.
What is a Poetry Slam?
For those who enjoy creating their own poetry as much as they love reciting it, there is a genre of poetry competition called the ‘poetry slam’.
Poetry slams are competitions in which contestants must perform spoken word poetry against one another, usually on a specific theme chosen on the evening, and are scored by a panel of judges.
Competitions of this type are found in all kinds of places; you might see some at festivals, or as standalone events in the trendy corners of your nearest city.