Competition review: Poetic Republic

First in an occasional series in which I review some of the competitions I enter.

Poetic Republic. Annual since 2009. Poetry only.

My history with this competition
I entered one poem in 2013. It didn’t make it past the first round.

General information
I love the concept – in essence, it’s a crowd-sourced competition. You must judge at least one set of twelve other poems, in each of the first two rounds, in order to have your own poem eligible for the final. (Apparently you can email them if you are unable to do this and they’ll waive that requirement.) Then everyone judges the final dozen, but this is optional.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite work in practice. I don’t just mean that only two people placed my poem in the top four out of twelve of that particular judging round (sob), but throughout the competition, organizers seemed pretty much absent. The news page wasn’t updated at all during the judging period, over a period of a few months, and although participants were able to submit tweets which were automatically published in the PR twitter feed, there were never any responses – except one which snidely informed us that ‘The short list comprises specific poems with specific merits. The time for discussing the shortlist is after the judging has closed.’ Really? We’re expected to pay and to judge but not to comment and discuss? Way to smack down your entrants. (For the record, there were all of five tweets commenting on the shortlist, only two of which had any hint of negativity, and both of those were disappointed that the shortlist was entirely free verse. No specific poems were mentioned in any way.)

I mean, normally you would have great whopping silence from the organisers during the judging period, so I wouldn’t ordinarily comment, but this competition is rooted in community and interaction.

Also, one of the big draws of the competition is that you get comments on your poem, but there’s no guarantee of this happening. I only got two, and based on the final email sent out after the competition ended, it sounds as though many people get none at all.

Entry fee vs prize money
Entry is a pretty steep £7 per poem. I can’t think of any other competition, apart from the mighty Bridport, which asks for so much. [Of course, 35 minutes after I posted this, I found one that charges £8 per poem....] The only prizes are the top ones, which is £1000 for the best single poem and £2000 for the best portfolio (two poems). Appalling value for money, unless you win. (I do realize poets are not supposed to be In It For Money but many of us balance the cost of entering with the potential rewards.)

Acknowledgement/announcement of winners
PR kept in touch pretty well – far more than most competitions, though that was primarily due to the nature of this one (which, as noted above, required the entrants to judge two sets of poems). They also sent a long ‘Thank you for taking part’ email.

Eleven poets are shortlisted (in addition to the winner). Forty-eight poems will be in the eBook, so that seems to be 36 on the longlist. There were 1346 poems entered, so about 3.5% of the entries will be published.

Final judgment
I pretty much felt as though I’d paid a whopping entry fee to do the competition’s work. PR emphasises a community-based approach to creative writing, which I am all in favor of, but community needs to go both ways.

Would I enter again?
I really doubt it. It was a fun experiment and I did enjoy reading and commenting on the other poems, but that’s nothing I can’t get in a workshop. And £7 will get me three poems in the Mslexia competition, which is a far better deal.

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Published in: on June 20, 2013 at 12:27 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I wouldn’t enter it again. Either I was given twelve dreadful poems to judge and had to choose my ‘favourite’ four, or I was given twelve great poems to judge and had to ditch eight really good ones. Not one if the poems in the shortlist had rhyme or rhythm, which I would have expected; not just prose.

    • That’s a shame. I think I generally had enough decent poems to make a good shot at choosing four, but it was far more uneven in the second round than I’d expected.

      • Hi Tracey. It must be the luck of the draw. I was lucky enough to get comments on all six of my poems, and one is going to be in the e book, so that was nice.

  2. I agree with your blog. I had a mixed experience, with some very encouraging comments on my own stuff but poems to judge that were all free verse, with authenticity but little prosody, which seems to be the fashion now. How can one criticise prosey poems if they are full of apparent integrity? It seems churlish, but clearly others had the same feeling as me.

  3. I agree with you, Paul. The lack of prosody seems to be the fashion, but I think it’s a cop-out, as there is a certain skill in achieving rhythm and pattern. I had a lot of people criticise the last two lines of all my poems, but it’s my style to make them longer and of different rhythm to the other lines in a kind of winding down way. Maybe if they had read more than one they would have got this. I think my poems are too lighthearted to be taken seriously by the poetry world, if that is not a contradiction in terms;

  4. Interesting perspective.

    I’ve done this competition 3 times now (never had a poem go beyond the first round) and particularly last year I was surprised and disappointed with the poems that got to the final round compared with some amazing ones I’d judged in earlier rounds that just disappeared without trace… It makes me think a lot about what kind of poem people like! Are they mad?! Or is it a flaw in the filtering algorithims?

    I keep entering every year because I think it’s a fascinating process.

    Poetry competitions generally: For anyone who enters conventional poetry competitions it’s a good insight into what it must be like for the judges – all the dross they must have to wade through! Never again will I send off something I haven’t crafted to within an inch of its life.

    Comments/critique: I always make a point of doing proper comments on every poem I select – and as a consequence, apparently, I’ve had comments printed in the ebooks – though I’ve not bought them to see. I’m disappointed with how few comments I’ve received, I thought people would be entering this competition partly for the opportunity to critique as well as to win! I think it’s a shame to see how many of the winning poems just got screeds of comments consisting of ‘love it!’ or words to that effect. This competition has the potential to be a valuable development process for both budding and more experienced poets, but on the whole, it’s not because of the lack of engagement in well thought through comments.

    Price: Yes, £7 is steep for entering a single poem into a competition. I look at it that not only do I get to enter a poem (which I’m learning to accept isn’t going to get anywhere), but I also get to read and think hard about at least 36 other poems of wildly varying styles and quality, which gives me tons to learn from.

    I think anyone who enters poetry competitions on a regular basis should have a go at this one at least once. It’s a learning experience.

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