The Long and the Short and the Poetry
As poets we try and make a good impression when we are submitting — it behoves us to try and read back issues of the magazine if we are not already subscribers, paying for them if there are no sample issues on the website. We find out the editorial team's name(s) and we know to read the submission guidelines carefully so that we're not sending simultaneous submissions it the magazine says clearly that they do not desire poems that are potentially under consideration elsewhere.
Poets are, on the whole, very amenable to other poets. Many of us share information and website links with other poets, ones who we know personally as well as through the medium of Twitter or Facebook where we have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of friends and followers. I have entered several submissions this year that I would never have heard of if it hadn't been for reading on Twitter that such-and-such magazine was open for submissions on such-and-such a theme.
It makes for a happy community and a more viable one in a world where there is little money in poetry for either poets or publishers.
The Circle of Fortune
I initially sketched out ideas for this post precisely one year ago. I had learned of the 2016 Bridport Prize shortlist The Bridport is a very significant poetry prize and attracts many entries. It has a commensurably large prize pot of £5,000 for first prize, £1,000 for second, £500 for third, and 10 awards of £100 for highly commended poems.
In the entry guidelines they do say that ‘Please note: due to the high volume of entries we are only able to contact those entrants who have won or been shortlisted in the competition each year. If you do not hear from us by mid September it means your entry has not been selected on this occasion.’
I would not expect a competition receiving a large number of entries to notify each person individually, but, rather than leaving an entrant to have to assume that their entry was unsuccessful, would it be too much trouble to set up an auto-email message, in the way that other competitions and magazines send out weekly digests of news from their site?
Keep it Under Your Hat
Last year I didn't make the shortlist. I hadn't heard by September so took them at their word that my entry had not made the cut. Of course I checked the shortlist to make sure — happy poets stay optimistic in the face of staggering odds — but nope, my name was not to be found.
There was no sign of a success email from the Bridport arriving in my inbox this September either, so I'd mentally written my chances off, when on 28 September an email hit my inbox, starting with the word Congratulations!:
Congratulations! Whilst you have not won one of the top thirteen prizes in the Bridport Prize competition, I am writing to let you know that your poem xxxx was shortlisted.
We had 4,258 poetry entries this year, and 200 were shortlisted.
I love emails that congratulate me for not winning almost as much as ones that say a poem has won or has been accepted for publication — secrets of happy poets #2, be happy at the little things. I've had to keep my lips zipped for the last two weeks though because the Bridport email did request that shortlisted poets keep the news to themselves, their friends and families only, not posting about it on social media until after the results went live on the Bridport website.
It's a Long, Looooong Way to Poetry
If you read last week's post you'll no doubt recall that I love percentages. Well a shortlist of 200 poems might not sound very short at all but, as the Bridport's email mentioned, they had 4258 poems to consider, and a shortlist of 200 therefore represents 4.7 percent, which I'm delighted about.
On the 2017 Bridport shortlist are 4 other poetry friends of mine. Two of them had no idea that they'd made the shortlist until I was able to post on Facebook this week and tag them as a fellow shortlistee. There was simply no sign of the Bridport email in their inboxes or their spam folders, which concerns me greatly, because one technical blip is not surprising, but when two people you know have experienced the same problem, it's suggesting that the Bridport's communication systems are not functioning reliably enough.
I do like the Bridport's decision to name the poet but not the poem on their shortlist page. They explained in their email that this means the poem can't be excluded from any competition that doesn't welcome poems that have been previously published. I've never seen a competition barring previously shortlisted poems unless they've been published in an anthology of shortlisted competition poems, but it's possible that such a restriction might arise somewhere.
All in the Name
Of course there is a downside to the poem not being named in the shortlist results. If a poet has not received the email notifying them that their poem has been shortlisted, and if they've submitted more than one poem, then the poet has no clue which of their poems made the shortlist! This was the case with one of my shortlist friends and I know she's emailed to try and find out which poem made the list, but I don't think she's had a reply yet ...
#BridportPrize #Competitions #Communications @BridportPrize