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Less Haste, Less Waste

Less Haste, Less Waste

You have to be so careful about putting poems online on a personal website, because that does make them count as having been "previously published" and therefore ineligible for entry into competitions and most magazines and journals. That's why there are not many poems on my Poems page! I believe if a poem is decent enough to be a publication candidate then it should be kept off that page in case an opportunity might present itself at any point in the future. Conversely, if a poem is not likely to find a publication home then it probably shouldn't be placed on the Poems page as an example of what I write.

You know me, I like to believe that one day my poetry might provide wealth so that I can lounge around on yachts and gambling in Monte Carlo casinos, pausing for 10 minutes per day to scribble a couple of lines for a new poem sometime around lunch or, failing that, that it might pay for me a cheeseburger from a mass market junk monger.

So what did I see this week? A very enticing competition, The Manchester Writing Competition, run by Manchester Metropolitan University. I am attracted by their approach, requiring that you submit a portfolio of between 3 and 5 poems, with no individual line limit per poem, but an overall maximum total of 120 lines. That seems a refreshing change from the more standard format where poems are considered individually (typically with a 40 line limit) or a pamphlet of 10 to 20 poems is considered as a whole. Compared to a 40 lines per poem format it doesn't add up to being any more generous (3 poems of 120 lines means, you guessed it, 40 lines per poem, and 5 poems is even less accommodating, but it gives flexibility so you could, if you desired, submit a 114 line monster alongside 3 petite haiku).

OK it costs £17 per entry, which isn't cheap, but it's not extortionate either, and the prize is BIG! £10,000 which I believe would buy me cheeseburgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a whole year (or, more accurately the rest of my life, which might be the same thing if I ate nothing but cheeseburgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner!).

The competition doesn't close until 5pm on Friday 23rd September, but never one to hang around I looked through my suitable poems file and came up with 3 that fit the bill perfectly. They clocked in, in document order, at 53 lines, 35 lines and 19 lines. I was particularly keen to include a poem that I started writing a long time ago (early 2000s) called It Was Winter Last We Spoke. Hands up, how many of you lovely readers are thinking to yourself, hang on, Mr. Turnbull, that poem is on your Poems page! Yep, it's a fair cop guv. It is an extract, maybe the first third of the poem, and I've reworked its line lengths since I posted it there, but I am sure it would count as "previously published" if any sharp eyed judges took a moment to make sure that poems were eligible (hint: ask Google for "It Was Winter Last We Spoke" and right away there is a link to my poetry page on this website).

Of course that didn't dampened my spirits irrecoverably (very little does!), and the following afternoon I replaced the offending poem with a similar length poem that I hope fits just as well with the other two potentials.

In my defence, I always thought of It Was Winter as being chapter 1 of a short story in verse, so it never seemed likely that I would seek to include it on its own in any single poem submission or competition or in fact in anything other than as a complete pamphlet (currently being a draft of 13 chapters). But that is my tip of the week, think twice before you post poems, or significant sections from poems, onto any website because it pretty much takes them out of contention for future use. Ironically the poem I have replaced it with is another, later, chapter from the short story in verse sequence which has been more sensible and hasn't previously shown its face anywhere online.

For those of you interested in trying to win the gargantuan prize, here is the website for Manchester Writing Competition which takes you to the poetry category information, though there is also a short story category if that whets your appetite.

Stay hungry for poetry :)

Published incompetitions and submissionsPoetry

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