Skip to content

Costume Poetry

Costume Poetry

The deadline is rapidly approaching in this year's Creative Future literature competition.

This competition is for short stories (up to 300 words) and poetry (of up to 200 words) that responds to the theme ‘Important Nothings’. All entries must be received before 5pm on 26 June 2017.

The Creative Future competition always makes me smile because it is the only one I've entered where poets get a word count limit rather than a line limit. I think that is wonderful! Line count limits penalise poets who like to use very short line lengths which may, as a result, require more lines than the rules permit. There have been times where I've joined shorter lines together into one longer line, but that is often to the detriment of the poem's flow.

Naturally line counts can be important for print publications who may want to ensure poems fit onto a single page (have you noticed how many line limits for submissions are at 40 or 42 lines, the perfect length for a sheet of A4 / US Letter size paper at 12pt Tines New Roman font?) and for poetry competitions a 40 line limit allows the poem to be printed out, photocopied, and circulated to the various judging tiers without the need for staples, paperclips or page numbers. Sometimes I feel the submission requirements are having more of an impact on my poem than I'm really comfortable with.

I've never seen a short story writer being told that they can submit pieces up to 72 lines in length, have you? Seventy two lines would approximate to 1000 words, but it doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense to a short story writer. Line counts make more sense in poetry, but when word count limits are used then we poets can set our poems out the way that best suits the poem and I'd love to see more poetry submissions using a word count limit.

Poetry Operatics

For my Creative Future entry I'm taking the story of one particular character from the opera Turandot. I have seen this opera being performed twice, once as a fully sighted person in Swansea, and once as a partially sighted one in Atlanta, but those were both several years ago now. I hoped I might find some descriptions of the character's costume but, although photographs were easy to find, textual descriptions that I could read were not.

So I figured I'd ask a couple of opera experts for their assistance. First up I emailed English National Opera (ENO), explaining that I needed to write a poem about one of the characters in Turandot, and could they help me by describing the costume they use for the character in one of their performances. I received an immediate reply: We reply to all enquiries but it may take up to between 4-6 weeks for a response. Hmmmmm. Next email went to my local opera company, Welsh National Opera (WNO) who also replied within the hour, but this time the Head of Costume at WNO replied in person to let me know that she wasn't in the workroom at that moment, but would send me some info the following Monday.

The info she sent me is the most detailed description of an image I've ever received! Really fantastic, describing the materials including the lining of the jacket / tunic, the hair style and the footwear — exactly what I hoped for :)

The response from Royal Opera House Collections for ENO arrived, a shade under their 4 week target, but it provided a similar level of detail about one of their Turandot costumes. Both opera companies exceeded my expectations and hopefully I can use their information to add some pizazz to my poem :)

Dressing Up

I would love to leave you with a synopsis of the opera, but I'm afraid with the competition deadline snapping ferociously at my heels as well as a magazine article in need of completion a couple of days later, I'm going to have to leave you to exercise your Google muscles on that. Instead I'll leave you with my favourite aria from Turandot, Non piangere Liù, which translates as Don't Weep, Liu. It's sung here by the big man himself, Luciano Pavarotti :)

If you'd like to read my first Turandot poem, which was longlisted in the Cinnamon Press single poem prize 2016 under the title Turandot's Enigmas, it is included in my pamphlet, Dressing Up, available from the Cinnamon Press website or contact me here and I'll happily mail a signed copy to you :)

#Turandot #Poetry #Opera #CreativeFuture #DressingUp #CinnamonPress @CinnamonJan

Published incompetitions and submissionsPoetry


  1. Frances Browner Frances Browner

    Enjoyed this Giles; agree with your points re lines vs words. Gonna take a look now and see if I have a poem of 200 words about Important Nothings! Or indeed, about anything.

  2. Frances Browner Frances Browner

    Oops, can’t enter, I don’t live in the United Kingdom!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2021 Giles L. Turnbull · All rights reserved

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: