The Victorina Press Poetry Contest 2022 - What the Judges Look for in a Winning Poem
Two of the judges of this year’s Victorina Poetry Contest share their thoughts on what they look for in a winning poem.
The Victorina Poetry Contest has a broad and universal theme this year: Life, Death and Beyond. The main topics covered in the poems I’ve read for previous competitions have largely fallen within that remit: death, marriage, funerals, illness, friendships and adultery. These universal themes will always outnumber the quirky and unusual, but they need to be approached with fresh eyes to be noticed.
At the start of the judging process it always feels like a daunting challenge: will I find poetry with that indefinable magic, with original language, arresting imagery and adventurous ideas to surprise me? Will I be able to identify the poem that – for me – shone above the rest?
For a poem to work, the poet needs to communicate with the reader, not just talk to themselves. Beautiful language is meaningless if there are no concrete ideas and no clear message. The best poetry is never overcrowded, the words are reduced to an essential essence that dances to a unique rhythm.
There needs to be a confident voice, and even if that voice is a delicate one, it needs to have surety.
But a winning poem needs more than deft technique, originality and a clear message. It has to resonate, demand re-reading, it has to touch the soul and linger in the mind.
More About Amanda
Amanda is the award-winning author of the novellas, All Our Squandered Beauty and Crossing the Lines, as well as four collections of short fiction and poetry. Her debut poetry chapbook, The Collective Nouns for Birds, won the Saboteur Award for poetry in 2020, and her first full length collection, talk to me about when we were perfect, will be published in early 2023 by Victorina Press.
It’s very hard to define what a winning poem needs to be. I look for the unusual message, one that touches the heart and mind. I look for concrete images which sing from the senses, have crystal clarity, a poem not shy of being specific and personal. I want to see poems where particular attention is given to the white space, as well as the words themselves, letting the poem breathe and dance its own music.
More About Bethany
Bethany Rivers has published two poetry pamphlets: the sea refuses no river, from Fly on the Wall Press; Off the Wall, from Indigo Dreams. She is also author of Fountain of Creativity – Ways to nourish your writing. She is editor of As Above So Below, online poetry magazine.