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How to Win the Poetry Competition

by catfan131


Dannece here, Sakhmet's premier journalist. (Well, someday.) You may remember me from such guides as "I Pulled the Lever of Doom 46 Times for Research" and... uh, listen, it's quality, not quantity. And consider this: you're in on the ground floor as far as my future fame is concerned.

     Let's get down to business. You're a writer. Or an aspiring one. Or maybe you're a trophy collector. Listen, I'm not one to judge. All I'm here for is to dish the juice on award-winning poetry.

     Neopia has one major venue for poetry: the Poetry Competition. Pets from across the globe submit to this exclusive forum. Sound daunting yet? It doesn't need to. After all, I've written a guide to get you through your first submission to the Poetry Competition. Pal, you’ll be writing in no time.

     Where to start? Well, first assure yourself that the judge(s) of the Poetry Competition, if you decide to enter, rewards effort. Your only prerogative in this exercise is to do your best, so long as you write about something relating to Neopia. Isn't that comforting?

     Next, if you take away nothing else from this article, note this: Base your entry entirely on the Neopian calendar. Generally speaking, each release of poetry aligns with a Neopian holiday; the entries, you’ll find, are specially themed according to that holiday. As a result, before you start writing, determine which month to submit, and pick a holiday according. For example, during the month of Hiding, during which this article will be released in the Neopian Times (see what I did there?), we celebrate such holidays as the Discovery of Brightvale, Grundo Independence, and Mutant Day. As such, you may like to write an ode to King Hagan, a sonnet on a famous Grundo, or a limerick about the benefits of drinking a Transmogrification Potion. Let these holidays be your guide.

     Now, some folks believe in a muse; I believe in habits. I used to wait for inspiration to strike; now that I write articles for a living, my hungry stomach demands that I take on a more regular schedule. Even if your sights are set on the trophy and nothing more, you'll benefit from the kind of regularity you might expect from practising for a game avatar. Sit at your desk, or your bed or love seat (I don't particularly care), and read a few pages of past competitions. Then get those fingers moving. Write anything that comes to mind. Warming up can go a long way; it gets the wheels turning in that old brain of yours. And once you get yourself in the mindset of writing, the ideas will come. Promise.

     Not into personal enrichment? Peruse the Neopian calendar for inspiration and wallow in front of a blank page until the words eke out of your pen. I won't stop you. That has certainly been my strategy the night before a deadline. What I find most helpful in these situations is to have a second, more terrifying deadline looming over your head; somehow I'll procrastinate on that deadline with the less scary assignment.

     Onto the anatomy of the poem. If you have previously written for the Neopian Times, writing prose may come easily to you. In that case, I will introduce you now to the line break. (Reader, linebreak; linebreak, reader.) The mighty line break is what more or less separates poetry from prose. Similar to the space found after a paragraph, it splits two lines of text. It sounds simple now, but just wait until your lines stretch across the page. So where does one break up a line?

     If you're not one to overcomplicate things, start out by breaking up your lines at the end of each clause (another word for the combined forces of the subject, the predicate, and all their related friends). You may also dabble in beginning the next line after a natural pause for breath as you read your work out loud. Alternately, you may be inclined to experiment with linebreaks after every other word. Knock yourself out! I'm not the Chia police (not that they hold much power over your writing prowess). As long as you keep your epic under 75 lines long, you are free to go.

     Unlike regular old prose, poetry is all about the flow. Pay attention to the rhythm of the words you choose, and keep a thesaurus close. If you’re having trouble, write your thoughts first, and return to it with an iambic agenda in mind. Read your words aloud to yourself and count the syllables as you go: baDUM, baDUM, baDUM. Of course, your heart may be set on dactylic meter (not literally, because that would be an irregular heartbeat, and you should get that checked out). BAdumdum BAdumdum. You can study this further in Advanced Poetry.

     Do not feel ashamed to put your work aside for a bit. In fact, I tucked this article in a folder for months before I got around to finishing it. Sometimes you need a fresh set of eyes and a renewed faith in the world to finish a poem. This is all part of the process, my friend.

     Recommended reading

     Imitation is a great way to learn, so fill your brain with the words of more successful poets. You can't go wrong with titles like When the Wind Blows and Usul Beatnik Poetry. And while weirdly extensive, Variations on a Gormball prompts an excellent writing exercise using limited subject matter. And if you need some hate-reads---again, I don't judge---Worst. Poetry. Ever. and Poems to Rot Your Heart will make you cringe and laugh simultaneously.

     If you plan on making a habit of this wild ride we call "writing," go ahead and clear a space in your bookcase for Avoiding Writers Block, Writers Tips, and Advanced Poetry. Believe me, you'll need them. Thank me later.

     Well, kid, you're well on your way to getting that shiny Poetry Competition trophy, fleshing out that plump trophy cabinet of yours. Remember to stick to your instincts and follow the rules. Write about something or someone you love, some species or holiday you hold deep in your heart, and the words will flow. Do me proud, champ. Do me proud.


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