Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Prize Winner


What makes a poetry manuscript a prize winner?


As a small press editor with over 40 years of experience, here are some of the things I expect when reading a manuscript for The Word Works Washington Prize:


— The manuscript conforms to such standards as easy-to-read type like 12 point Times New Roman on 81/2 X 11 pages with a table of contents and page numbers.


— The contest rules have been followed. For example, the Washington Prize is read blind which means the manuscript must not include your name or acknowledgements that list where individual poems have been published.


— The poems demonstrate a mastery of poetic craft. I do not consider lineated text to be poetry. Free verse should demonstrate inclusion of lyricism, rhythm, metaphor, something that indicates the words selected are sensitive to language.


— The manuscript has poems that “talk to each other.” This might mean subject matter, poetic form, stylistic elements. And the poems seem to work well with each other.


—Selected poems address the human condition. This might mean addressing big life events like birth, death, love, marriage, war, political struggle, domestic abuse.


—Individual poems or the overall manuscript teaches the reader something new.


—The poems exhibit that the poet is taking a calculated risk which might be in form or subject matter.


The bottom line is what makes this manuscript different? What makes this manuscript memorable?

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