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A Little Friendly Poetry Contest Advice


by flufflepuff

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If you enter "poetry" into the Neopian Times search bar, you'll find a whole bunch of guides talking about rhythm, meter, and what worked for poetry contests in the past. However, when I searched for recent articles about the poetry contest, I was dismayed to find that there is a huge gap between now and Issue five hundred and something: which is almost two years ago. Rumor has it that the storytelling and poetry judge changed around that time, but whether or not that's true, I figured you would like an update of sorts.

You're welcome.

However, I won't teach you about the elements and structure of a poem. Poetry in itself is a journey—it's all about finding things for yourself. I'm here to guide you. Parmadur has a good article here on meter and flow and form, if you're looking for the basics of writing a poem. What I will give you are little tidbits I've picked up from both other people, and from entering well over 100 poems myself.

Short, sweet, and to the point:

Write what you like, rhyme, don't rhyme, read it out loud to make sure it sounds nice, and enter it!

Read!

To get ideas, simply read other people's poems. Look at what forms they used, which words they used, make a note of words you don't know or words that sound beautiful in your mind. But don't steal. Yeah. That won't end well for your account or your integrity.

Also it might be worth stating that when reading poems, longer ones tend to hang towards the bottom of the page rather than the top. I suppose this is so because longer poems can crowd out shorter ones, rather than the reverse.

For all you send-happy writers:

Now then, for efforts such as applying to jobs, a common tactic is to throw all your jelly at the wall and hope it sticks. For poetry, storytelling, and the NT, you really shouldn't do that so much. Space out your entries and give others a chance to enter. I mean, think about how the poor judge might feel! If they see a bunch of entries with your username on it, it looks like you are desperate and want to crowd everybody out. If you send in four poems for a pet day, take it easy! I started out doing this in the contest with three or four poems for each pet day, and quickly got worn out. Be courteous and space your entries to give you and the judge(s) a breather. Send your poems in... weekly, if you feel ambitious.

Why weekly? Backlog is usually a month's worth of poems, which, if you do the math (5 poems a day, twice a week, usually three pet days a month which hold ten poems) you're talking about nearly 100 poems a month, including those that were held over but did not get in. You heard right: it's possible to have a hold over and never see your poem in the contest.

Nine times out of ten, if you get your "Held over" neomail, you'll see it in the contest. The last time, you need to decide whether or not to resend it.

Resending

Deciding whether or not to resend a poem can be a tough call. If you get rejected from poetry it could be for a number of reasons, and sometimes the judge will tell you what that reason is, but usually not. In the Spanish poetry contest, they tell you more often what went wrong with the poem, be it formatting issues, or in my case, grammar issues (eep!). Other cases for a pet day's rejection is a holdover that was somehow missed—I'd wait a few weeks before deciding to resend in that case.

However, if you feel the poem works fine and it's Neopets related, go ahead and read it aloud, or show close friends whom you trust. Another option, which will minimize your chance of having your work stolen to virtually zero, is to share your poem with no one. Really, resending is a case by case basis thing. For example, you could have a poem about Talinia in the shape of an arrow. Appropriate choice, since she is an archer. The poem could flow really nicely, evoke powerful feelings in the reader, but since it's a shape poem with 50 characters or more, it will not be allowed to win because the lines will overlap and no longer look like an arrow. If that's the case, you should tweak your poem and then send it in again.

One final tip on this point: Poems meant for pet days usually don't make it on a random day, but you never know! When in doubt, resend, but don't do it too often.

Don't push the date.

Usually pet days and special days are celebrated the day before the actual date on the calendar, but circumstances do arise when one day has to be early or late. Ogrin Day is consistently early, and Jetsam Day was late this year. Even so, you may have noticed on this year's Jetsam Day page at least two authors remark how sad they were that Jetsam Day was late. What does this mean? It means you can wait until the last moment—meaning the morning of the pet day in NST, but I'd advise not to push it. Yes, life happens, but the last moment pushing thing is mainly in case of an emergency and if you want a shot at the poetry contest. Holdover Neomails typically go out at 1 PM NST or a little later on the day poems are scheduled to go up. I've very rarely seen them given out earlier than that.

Originality.

I know a lot of poetry contest article writers say this, but it's more than worth mentioning here. Originality is a huge plus. A helpful tip is to search through older winning poems for topics that were frequently used. An acrostic poem on Hannah for Usul Day is very much expected, but a Jetsam shaped poem accurately describing their movements?! (That's right, I'm looking at you, Outlander_!) That's pure genius!

Unshakable dates.

Check the Neopian calendar, and, if you enter frequently, mark your own. Special days like Christmas or Petpet Appreciation Day always have poems attached to it, as do pet days like Acara day and Blumaroo Day. Poems for a particular day go up one day before the actual day is celebrated, unless a weekend or an extended American holiday is involved (the Fourth of July weekend is one that not every poet can foresee).

Collaboration.

Try not to collaborate unless you know the product will be absolutely spectacular. Oh, I won't lie, folks, it's been done before but I haven't seen one recently.

However, I do recall the last storytelling contest collaboration: Story 630's ending went up later than usual, and both rielCZ and I got our trophies and prizes. I can just imagine the distraught judge trying to juggle winnings and reformat several things the users can't see, so I feel slightly guilty about that. If the storytelling contest is anything to go by, I'd be careful if I was to collaborate with someone on a poem. It has to be EPIC. Not necessarily an epic, but I have a feeling you know what I mean. Just try not to get your hopes up, and if you do win with someone else, I will squeal like a little girl and neomail you directly.

Be brave!

Come up with your own strategy and explore! Don't be afraid to try new things! Not all of your poems have to rhyme, and not all of them have to rhyme throughout. My Symol Day poem didn't rhyme until the last stanza. Observe:

Resuming tasks not yet complete,
He prowls the fields for hapless grubs,
Then screeches once his meals are done
In more triumphant victory
Than Meridell could muster up
Just after both her valiant wars.
Some citizens nearby believe
'Tis ghosts or zombies bellowing.
Said citizens are but half-right --
No ghosts had been around that night,
But some report a Symol sight,
And moans, but never when there's light.

Experiment. When you find something that works with you naturally, stick to it. Sugarypixiestix2's poems are couplets most of the time, and they read well. She makes sure the audience knows that it's her style, and that can't be taken from her.

After you've done that for a while, shake it up! Be crazy! Do what judges never expect, have run-on sentences, drop to your knees, create images with words you never knew you could! *clears throat* As for me, my strategy is outlining. Notice how I never worry about rhyme until I actually put the poem together.

(Here is some of it for those of you who can't read my handwriting)

Bow born of forest jewel + wood + cloven hooves
Only Ixi hoof makes
Only Ixi hoof wields
(ask judge to take out death?)
Archer may have dress +
wig, dresses the part
but bow sets her apart
Bow: mercy, wrath + passion
Arrows crafted with care
Loud twang, thud, silence

And here's the poem in its finished form!

Be fast!

If you feel inspired by an item, a plot, or a color that just came out, write and send your poem right away! Like I said, poems take a few weeks from the submission date for the judge to find. The sooner, the better, I say. My poem about Lady Frostbite's Wig, an NC item which retired after a month, didn't successfully get through until several weeks after the item was retired. That was quite an embarrassing experience.

I didn't get my prize!

So you won the contest, eh? Well, congratulations! Go eat a well-deserved cookie and pat yourself on the back. Here, let me do it for you. *pats* What's that? You didn't get your prize yet? Don't panic. These things happen sometimes, so give it a few weeks or so. Worst case scenario, you wait two months for a codestone and a trophy, but that gives you more time to send in other poems and for them to be accepted, too!

Poetry gets buried

Now to hit you with some cold, hard truth. If you've spent ages on your poem and it gets in, you might expect some fanmail. Fanmail for poems does happen, but very rarely. Don't get upset if the title isn't mentioned in the news or if no one seems to read it. You never know. You could still show people who appreciate poetry, or someone could read your poem years later and be inspired by it. Who knows? You could even start a circle of poetry fans!

Conclusion

So go right ahead! Write about your own pet, be depressing, be happy, write about that petpet who stole your heart, write about the face of a Poogle, the Sillie Daisy who wouldn't stop crying—just about anything goes, and that's the beauty of the whole contest. It's a window where you can be more verbose than usual and no one blames you for it.

Make sure you enjoy it! Believe it or not, that's the most important part of all when it comes to poetry.

If you have any questions, feel free to Neomail me.

 
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