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The Long and the Short and the Poetry

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.

Communication Breakdown

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.

Keeping Schtum

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

Published incompetitions and submissionsPoetrytechnology


  1. Frances Browner Frances Browner

    Interesting article. We’re on that merry-go-round of not being notified, not being paid, not even being acknowledged for our work. Three of my students have had articles accepted for the local Historical Society Journal, but none of them have been notified, thanked, and there isn’t even a launch where they’ll get a cup of tea or a glass of wine, nothing. The only reason I know they’re in there is that after emailing them several times, I eventually contacted a committee member. Very disappointing. Especially as they charge 10 euro per copy & last year, had to reprint, such was the demand. Yet, they wouldn’t have a journal if we didn’t contribute?? I had a poem accepted for a literary journal two years ago. Ok, they did let me know & they did invite me to the launch where a copy was waiting for me at the entrance. But, that was that. The contributors were thanked in one speech, no names given, we were not even asked to stand up so that people could see us. There were several photos taken that only the editorial staff and organizers were included in, and only well-known writers were asked to read, not any of the general contributors. Yet, that journal was also on sale for 10 euro & was in great demand. The Bridport prize is very prestigious & they do charge an entrance fee, the least they could do is email each person and especially the ones who have been shortlisted. (Rant over – congratulations Giles!)

  2. Giles Giles

    I agree wholeheartedly, Frances. It should not be a big task to set up an automatic email system to let entrants know that their poems were or were not successful. I might follow up with a post on this topic next week 🙂

  3. Well to poets any mention their work is appreciated is always very welcome.

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