In which I send off a poem 

This week, I’ve spent a lot of time working on one poem for a competition.  I sent it off yesterday, Saturday, one day before the deadline.

I don’t know what’s made me enter more competitions this year, it’s not something I’ve ever done excessively, preferring instead to send my poems to magazines.  I suppose I fancied a change.  Next year, I’ll return to magazines.  There’s no entry fee for magazines, for one thing, but I must admit to feeling guilty if I don’t subscribe, or at least buy one issue, so there’s always a cost factor, magazines or comps.

The down side of competitions, for me, is if they stipulate a ‘theme’.  I find it hard to write to order.  For this reason, I sometimes struggle in workshops.  However, I enjoy the discipline of writing under pressure, knowing there’s a deadline, and I enjoy interpreting rules in my own way, adhering to a theme but  coming at it from a different angle.

I don’t know how it’s happened, but I’ve evolved a pretty annoying and time-consuming writing process, involving three notebooks.

I start the poem in one notebook, write a few lines, a few phrases, then I copy some of those lines and phrases into another notebook, so the poem has more of a shape, then edit both versions, underlining words, trying out alternatives, then I write a third version in the third notebook.  Then I switch back and forth between versions.  At some point, I’ll start to type up another version.  I feel that my method of working has regressed.  I used to commit to print a lot earlier, printing out many typed versions and working on those.  Perhaps this hesitancy is symbolic of how I feel about my work at this stage of my writing – which is insecure and hesitant.  I’ve never felt  less confident.  I honestly feel this is a positive thing, though!  I think it’s come about because of my wider reading and my wider exposure to different types of work which has made me question and doubt the value of my own writing.  Obviously, this is troubling (to me) but as long as I recognise it’s part of my writing process (I hope it’s a phase, and that I’ll gradually regain some confidence, and, I hope, feel my writing has improved), I’m not despairing… too much.

Yesterday, I walked away from the competition poem because I felt it was total cr*p.  It probably isn’t all that good, to be honest.  Because it is so less original, vibrant and interesting than the kinds of poem I’m reading just now.  But at some point I must have heard a faint echo of a teacher or a mentor from my very distant past telling me to finish and complete my project and to not be a quitter.  Something roused me to stop loitering and get on with it.  So I attacked the poem (more slashings out, copying out,  juggling between versions, printing off, etc)  and sent it off.  What will be, will be.  Or some such.

Any way, good grief, the UK weather is atrocious at the moment!  An excuse to stay inside with pens and notebooks and write some more.  There are two more comps I want to enter, deadlines approaching rapidly.  Hope all is well with you.


8 thoughts on “In which I send off a poem ”

  1. I often find the opposite, Josephine – for me, competitions with themes are the easiest option because you have some guidance on which poems to choose and whether there is anything suitable in the files! Sending to magazines I find daunting without a theme… how to choose say 4 unconnected poems out of the blue? I still don’t have a sense of housestyle even though I try to read a copy of what I’m targeting. And yet I really want to send out. Oh well…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting, Elinor! Yes, fathoming ‘house style’ is difficult. I think it’s possible to send a sequence of poems, though, so not necessarily 4 – 6 ‘unconnected’ poems. Magazine or comp, it’s never easy but anything worth doing rarely is.


  2. I keep on saying it, Josephine. A lot of competitions…not the Bridports and the nationals….fund small publishers and poetry readings. So you’re supporting causes you believe in, just by entering. And buying your lottery ticket. You can’t dream if you don’t enter. And if you don’t win, you understand; it’s a lottery with only one winner and there’s an element of luck. Whereas if you get a rejection from a magazine (which happens on a serial basis with me) there’s no such consolation. There were maybe fifty winners and you weren’t among them. Someone carefully considered your poem and decided it wasn’t good enough for them. Whoever they are. So I’m all for comps. And submissions, too. But comps are more fun.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. For regular poems I mostly like to have a theme otherwise my grasshopper mind can’t decide which way to go. I have far too many unfinished ideas and too many different notebooks on the go. I don’t do many competitions. I mostly send off to haiku and senru to anthologies and journals but they are usually created ‘in the moment.’ Other than that I responded to The Haiku Foundation’s weekly ‘haiku in the workplace,’ prompt most weeks this year and have had all of them published so far but I do study/subscribe to (many are online and free) poetry and haiku journals regularly rely and watch some really good readings on You Tube. Being able to read journals, the published poems and judges comment comment in the weekly challenge not only hones one’s understanding and skill but helps us to discern what the publisher is looking for.

    Thank you for your interesting blog.

    Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting to read how your writing process has changed recently! I mostly draft by hand on scrap paper – often many times – before typing up and tinkering. This year, I’ve decided not to enter competitions and instead to focus on magazine submissions, as well as getting a couple of pamphlet submissions together. Themes tend to make me clam up! Good luck, and I’m sure some wonderful poems will come out of this hesitant, uncertain period.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Hilaire, and best of luck with your writing, too. Somebody very wise did once tell me not to focus too much on publishing poems in competition anthologies (“which nobody reads”) and to aim instead to be published in “the best magazines which the top publishers read”. Possibly controversial but some truth here, I think! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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