I read this advice re winning them:
“1. Use plenty of visualisation.
2. Look at what other poems have won competitions with this particular judge”
I’m sure it is good advice, but the idea of shaping poetry to a) fit a certain idea of what poetry should look like and, worse b) be tailored to a specific reader, just makes me cringe. Maybe I’m just stubborn.
I can well imagine that judges might be looking for saponaceous adjectives which surprise with their unexpected juxtapositioning, or bulgingly inventive adverbs, silky sibilance and acute alliterations. But too much of all that and it can seem a bit forced and read like Competitive Poetry.
Worse is when there is some sort of constraint on theme. “Write a poem about daffodils!” they cry. Well, what if I don’t want to write about effing daffodils? What if I have nothing to say about
their sickly yellow trumpets
insulting my soul
with filthy mustard breath.
Go back to Wales!
Custard toned fodder
for lonely cloud-sheep
and crap poems is all you are.
See? Claptrap. I don’t care for daffodils.