Poetry competition traffic jams

I’m not sure why this happens – but about four times a year there are a tangle of high-profile poetry competitions with deadlines that fall around the same time.

This causes me to panic and spend hours racking my brain, wondering which competition to submit to. I invariably don’t have enough good work to submit to them all, which leaves me with an overwhelming sense of FOMO. (I like this stupid acronym. It expresses something important while sounding like it might stand for something edgy and offensive).

At the moment, the traffic jam consists of the following:

The Rialto Nature Poem Competition, deadline 30th April:


Poetry London Competition, deadline 1st May:


Bradshaw Books manuscript competition, deadline 18th May:


Templar pamphlet competition, deadline 7th May:


What are these poetry organisations trying to do to us? Is this a purposeful decision, designed to confuse and thus weed out the weaker, less dedicated writers? Or is it a result of the strangely hermetic worldview held by literary organisations in general, which means that they have no consciousness of the activities of their peers? If you were planning a poetry competition and noticed, through some very basic online research, that there were several deadlines occurring in and around the same time as yours, might you change your plans to level the playing field?

I attended an open meeting at the Irish Writer’s Centre in Dublin a couple of years ago, attended by several very dynamic and pro-active literary organisations. They were all doing fantastic work in their own right, but stood hovering around the edges of the room, glaring at each other with the suspicion of humans encountering beings from another world for the first time. The utter confusion when Unesco rolled into town as to a means of getting all of these discrete literary projects to somehow gel into one large, varied example of Irish literary prowess was another case in point. I wonder why this is? Is it something to do with the essentially solitary nature of writing? Or is it the absence of a strong, centralised location or organisation about which these smaller magazines, journals and writers’ centres can flock?

This is the bigger picture – and a longer discussion to be had another day – but arts administrators and magazine editors everywhere, please try to check your dates to prevent date clashes. It might mean you’ll receive better work and more of it.




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