Tag Archives: Poetry

So, this really is goodbye…

1 Sep

Hello – yes, I know I said I’d stop blogging, but I can’t. I might be addicted to the internet. However I do need to cut own the time I am spending on all my different platforms and applications so while this blog will always remain here (sometime we can visit it together and feel nostalgic for the old days) really I will be updating on alumpinthethroat.tumblr.com .

The reason I’m moving to Tumblr. is mainly it’s brevity, which like poetry form, actually gives you more creativity, and I feel I can be a bit more experimental with updates than I am in the traditional blog format.

Also, in other news. I am tweeting the whole of my first pamphlet of poetry This is a Poem under the hashtag #tiap at the moment. If it goes well I will also tweet A Violation of Expectation. I more than welcome virtual interaction, so do come and play…


Enough With Scratch Cards: How to Enter and Win Poetry Competitions

21 Dec

Poet Russell Jones, is becoming a bit of a dab hand at getting a good result out of a poetry competition.  Here he shares his tips with us.

Enough with Scratch Cards:  How to Enter and Win Poetry Competitions

Poetry competitions are strange beasts: half soul-sapping, half ego-boosting, half not good with fractions. While some writers find the concept of competitions to be “against the purposes of art” (and I tend to agree but my moral faculty is a bit inconsistent) they can offer impressive wads of cash to penniless poets, as well as gaining them some recognition amongst The Powers That Be in the publishing world. I started entering poetry competitions three years ago and have either won or been runner up in 12, making approximately £1500 profit from prize money. This article is a guide, of sorts, to entering and (hopefully) winning poetry competitions.

Finding suitable competitions

Competitions are often advertised in libraries and in writing magazines. A quick internet search will also bring up a face-mashing number of results. In particular the Southbank centre poetry library has an extensive list of reputable competitions with links and details for each. It is therefore best to be selective, choosing those which have themes that would suit you (if there is a theme). Another sneaky little trick is to check who the judge is and to see whether the kind of poetry you write is the kind of poetry they like to read (often there will be a comment from the judge on what they’re looking for).

Cost and winnings

Entering most competitions costs money so you have to be prepared to fork it out, Moneybags. Most cost four or five pounds per poem, with a discount offer for submitting several poems to the same contest. The payouts for winning vary from thousands of pounds (Bridport Prize, Manchester Poetry Prize, Eric Gregory Award) to a basket of cheese and condiments (yes that really was the prize for one I entered…and lost). Obviously the competitions which pay out more cash will have more entries and will likely be more difficult to win, so there’s a careful balance between chance, payout and cost. Some competitions offer online entries and payment, others will require postal entries so keep your chequebook handy.

Picking the “right poem”

This is a tough one. Tough as nuts. I’ve already mentioned spying on the judge and checking the theme but there are general tips to follow. Firstly, try reading the work of past winners (often on the websites of the competition) to gain an understanding of the sorts of things which have won. Generally speaking short poems do not win; I think they’re looking for value for money per word or some similar nonsense.  Secondly – and this may seem obvious – but pick your best poems and make sure they adhere to the rules. Some competitions don’t allow “bad” language or “adult themes”, it also seems a waste of time or money to send in poems which haven’t been revised to a point where you are completely happy with them. Very experimental poetry doesn’t seem to do too well in my experience, particularly if it requires difficult formatting or special fonts. Try choosing pieces that stand out as well-written and unique, but not too alienating.

Follow the rules

They all have rules, mainly about not including your name on the poem. If you break a rule your poem won’t count and you might still be charged. Get it right. Be meticulous. Keep a record of the poems you’ve sent out and the dates they’re being judged. Many competitions don’t like receiving previously published poems and they especially dislike it if you submit the same poem to several competitions at the same time…if they find out.

Don’t reach for the bread knife too soon

Competitions get thousands of entries, it might be that you’ve written the finest poem of the 21st century but that the sub-human letter hound who first saw it put it in the “no” pile because it wasn’t their cup of Bovril. Keep trying; see it as a positive thing if you even get a mention in the results, likelihood is that the poem is good enough to win a competition out there if someone else rated it highly enough to be in the final stages.


Only enter your worst poems to the competitions I enter, I need the money, I yearn for the fame. Thanks muchly.

Published and er, well..?

4 Nov

Today I had the happiness to come home to an email from Crafty Green Poet, Juliet Wilson, letting me know that one of my new poems Talking About It has been published on her blog Bolts of Silk.  Juliet uses Bolts to publish poets whose work she enjoys, and contains a large selection from all over the world.

The pleasant and relatively simple experience I had in submitting to Bolts is a vast contrast with another I had recently.  I submitted to an anthology which is going to be published in aid of a well-known charity.  Shortly after submitting I received an email from the editor who called my poem “very poignant” explaining that it would be included and asking me to write a dedication to my husband and also how I wished my name and copyright to appear.  I found it a bit odd to be asked to write a dedication to my husband, after all he  had cancer, it isn’t like he died from it, and I also found it odd to be asked about copyright, as no other editor I had worked with ever had.  However I submitted the dedication which was pronounced “perfect” and was told I would be given more details on publishers etc. in October.

Fast forward to October and I receive a short pro forma impersonal email telling me that I was not being included and that they hoped I would still buy a copy of the book.  I was taken very much by surprise.  If after such gushing acceptance emails and discussion of small inclusion details I would have expected, if in retrospect they decided not to include me, at the very least a personal email explaining and detailing their decision.

I emailed back, politely explaining my confusion and asking for an explanation. I have so far received no reply, I don’t expect one.

Film Poem

1 Oct

I am a very excited and happy woman today!  A while ago Mr Alastair Cook invited me round to his for a delicious lunch and to record some poems.  His film of my poem -ed can be viewed here.  More of Alastair’s film poems can be viewed here.

The film will also be being shown as part of the Hidden Door Festival in October

My new disguise

7 Sep

Tonight I am settling down to start a whole new part of my poetry career, editing.  As part of the Marvelou arrangement with my cousin I have all control over words, and she has all control of the look and physical feel of the book.  Our first call for submissions on found poetry has now closed.  At first I was worried that no one would respond, and I am very pleased to say that I have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of people who did decide to submit.  Particularly given the fact that Marvelou is completely new, has no reputation and as it is limited edition each poet won’t get a copy.

However, now with the call closed, my week-long migraine abated, and everything printed out in a nice folder I can procrastinate no longer.  I hope first and foremost to create an excellent edition of found poetry.  However I am also beginning to realise what a journey is involved in editing something like this.  Perhaps I will come through the other end a better, wiser poet – who knows.  The one thing that is for certain is that however emotional I find editing, none of it would be possible without our contributors.

Thank you.


2 Sep

Not that long ago I let all my readers know that I had been lucky enough to be included in Emergency Verse an anthology of poetry in defense of the welfare state.  The anthology is the brain child of Alan Morrison, who is a strong and forthright believer in the ability of poetry to change things, and to make a difference.

I feel very privileged to be included, because as a relative newcomer to poetry I suddenly find myself gracing the same pages as much more illustrious and talented poets such as Michael Horovitz, Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, Ken Worpole and Mario Petrucci – yes, people who even those who aren’t poetry geeks will have heard of.  For once the glazed look my non-poetry chums take on when I start gushing about posey lights up with a glimmer of recognition.

The anthology is published by Caparison e-books, and is very affordable at £2.99.  Alan is hoping that in selling enough copies of Emergency Verse as an e-book he will raise enough money to produce it as a bound book.  My excitement at being included is not only to suddenly find myself in an anthology of respected writers, but as much at the blend of poetry and politics it contains.

Having studied media and working in both PR and politics I have often found there is little proper analysis or informed debate about what is happening in British politics or basic political policy – bar texting opinions to whatever magazine show is popular in the mornings.  The sheer bafflement of the media, under pressure to roll 24 hours, at the hung parliament in Westminster was laughable.  Add to this the very little basic understanding of economics there is in our culture and it is both ourselves and future generations who will not so much be reaping the whirling, as extracting themselves from layers of fetid social decay.

Anyway – that’s the end of my political rant, and I don’t expect my readers to share my view or even agree with me.  However, you might like to check out the anthology, and the Guardian article about it too.

Published and performing

17 Aug

Well it was about time for some good news really, and it came in the form of an inclusion into an anthology, which is a first for me, and very exciting.  I have had a poem, called The Management of Hope included in the anthology from Caparison E-books which is titled Emergency Verse:  Poetry in Defense of the Welfare State and in Support of a Robin Hood Tax on the City and should be available to download in a few weeks.  I have managed to squeeze my way in among some much more well know names such as Michael Rosen, Michael Horovitz, Mario Petrucci and many more.  Political poetry often runs the risk of turning a little lecturous (yes, I’ve just invented a new word) or polemical, however I feel sure that such experienced writers will tackle this issue with great skill.

Secondly I will be performing this Sunday as part of the Free Fringe at Chaos Raging Sweet: 14.40-15.50, Banshee Labyrinth, Banqueting Hall, Niddry Street. MCing are Andrew C Ferguson and Rob A MacKenzie.  Having been initially very pleased to be asked, and having written a poem especially for the occasion my nerves are now beginning to get the better of me and I’m realising why I don’t perform very often.  However, it would be lovely to see and meet any of my readers, so please do come and introduce yourself.