Having embarked on this journey into poetry as the direct result of an impulsive decision to enter a competition, it perhaps comes as little surprise that there are numerous other competitions out there awaiting entry by would-be winners. The Poetry Society, for a start, seem to advertise their national competition from the moment the current one ends, giving nearly a whole year to come up with a masterpiece
The problem – in as much as there is a problem, particularly when it doesn’t necessarily apply to everybody – is that most (and maybe all) of these competitions require that an entered poem not be already published. To an extent, such a stance is both obvious and agreeable, for nobody would want their newly-written composition going up against a work already considered suitable for a collection or anthology.
But the rule about publishing usually also extends to personal websites, meaning anything I put on this blog is immediately made ineligible for just about any competition I might want to enter. (There are exceptions, in that most competitions also stipulate a maximum of 40 lines; the answer is clearly to write one epic for every poem that meets that limit, but that would be a hell of an undertaking!).
Given that the readership of the blog barely amounts to enough people to make a decent pub quiz team, it seems more than a little churlish to discount something just because I want to put it on here. To my mind, it’s hardly proper ‘publishing’ – more a showcase for my work, an illustration of my development as a budding poet, and the maintenance of a healthy blog. I don’t know if it’s acceptable to submit an entry and then put the poem on the blog, but it seems unlikely that such basic thinking is sufficient to circumvent the rules.
The combination of my own research and details passed on to the members of the Poetry Stanza means I can’t currently write enough poems – ones that seem worthy of submitting to competitions at any rate – to both enter those competitions and supply material to the blog. “Boo hoo,” you might say, or, “What’s the big deal if that many people aren’t reading?” But that’s not the point, and I get the impression that there is some contention within poetry circles regarding the fact that entering a poem for one competition precludes it from being entered into another. If that is the Poetry Society’s competition, you could be hanging on to a poem for twelve months without knowing if you can do anything else with it.
It could be argued – though I’m not sufficiently experienced to make the point with conviction – that when the author is paying for the privilege of entering a poem in a contest, he or she should be free to do whatever they please with their poem(s).
Perhaps I shouldn’t worry about competitions – after all, how likely am I to win? But if (however big an ‘if’ it might be) I did win, that could be a big boost to my fledgling ambitions, as well as my bank account in some cases. Competitions seem to be as valid a means of gaining recognition as anything else. Maybe the biggest question is – does anyone judging these competitions actually look for your personal website to see if your entry is ‘already published’?