A Self-Study of a Contest’s Winning Modern Poetry Entries

https://digitalcitizen.ca/category/writing/A few weeks back, I was able to share a short poem I had written this year that didn’t fare well in a local poetry competition, with anticipation of seeing the finalists and/or winning entries so I can “self-study” them as one more of many attempts to “get” modern poetry. Well, I got them and have shared them below, along with some self-study notes.


First of all, congratulations to the winners! I generally enjoyed reading them and seeing merit in them.

Now, before I share my personal notes from my “self-study” of them, as contest winners rather than as specific poems, I want to clarify a few things:

  • This move will probably reflect badly on me with unfiltered thoughts. However, I’m not going to let the “spotlight effect” let me think it will have big consequences in my life (i.e. that I’m important enough for these actions to matter to me).
  • What I decide on is my opinion for my context, not that it’s the right opinion. It’s the right opinion for me, in other words, which, in the arts, where there is rare, if ever, any “right” opinion, is not the same thing as the right opinion for me.
  • What I decide does not necessarily mean I will aspire to it, since that would be like “crafting my voice” rather than expressing the authentic one, which is the point of modern poetry, right? Since nobody talks like the more classical forms of poetry? Although I’d be the first to argue not many bodies talk like many of the modern poetry I see, either!
  • What I think of some of these modern poetry contests aren’t necessarily true for this one, but just such contests, in general, as I don’t know how this or any particular one operates. I just know I see trends.


Very personal and direct experience
The poems are all very personal and direct experience. They do evoke the personal essence of poetry that mine lacked, being a big picture summary that poetry can also do. Where I do write observations, I tend to prefer the big picture perspective that more people can relate to, rather than the personal experiences I often find too small or petty to care about. Show me something that expands my understanding of life and humanity and such. Don’t tell me about something that leaves me to respond with one word… so? It is nice when the poet shares an experience that strikes a chord or stirs something, which is a major goal of poetry, but for the little experiences, it’s far too chancy to get the right one so if I write those, I keep them out of competitions. For myself, somewhat, except that “for myself” often means “archived” online on my poetry blog so I don’t have to take them with me, or lose them, etcTry to submit more personal experience poems in future contests and see what happens.

Interesting mix of linguistic style
This has always been a challenge to me to “get” what “goes” for writing style because some are so abstract and nonsensical, to be blunt, I’m not willing to accept as poetry simply because someone else claims it is. It can be poetry to them, sure, meaning no hostility to them, but not to me. I will keep what I think of the linguistic styles of these results to myself generally, as there’s no value for me to remember them or my judgment of then, other than to say they’re reasonably good compared to other contest results I’ve seen. I’ve written some poems like this to have a feel for the “art”. I have no doubt I could hardly say I have a “good” feel for what goes, but I do, so try to submit free verse style poems in future contests and see what happens.

Lack of classical poetic elements
The question of can poetry with classical elements like rhyme schemes and meters win poetry competitions, or even get recognition, any more is a damn good one to debate. I think not, even with some stunning potential song lyrics that might not yet have a melody for them. That, right there, jades me on modern poetry competitions because they’ve generally ruled out a whole bunch of potentially good entries on technicalities. And where some classical or “semi-classical” verse may get recognition, I think they’re being held to a higher standard to have to be really outstanding to just place, because a lot of the ones getting merit and recognition aren’t anything too merit worthy to get excited about, in my opinion. But if lack of classical poetic elements goes, try to submit free verse style poems in future contests and see what happens. At least they won’t be discriminated against from the outset.

No rants
Amen to that! Poetry could and should sometimes address the tougher things in life to deal with, but I have a complex line, or perhaps I should call it a border or limit because it’s not easily defined like a line, for what is poetry, and what is just bitchin’ people should do without calling it poetry to give poetry a bad name. One day, as I expose myself more to modern poetry, I’m sure I’m going to go over a rant cliff and write a song called You Give Poetry a Bad Name!  That should be quite the bad bitchin’ poem on its own for irony. 😉

Note to self
While it may be interesting to look, examine, and get involved hands on by entering some modern poetry competition, this is not something I care too much about resolving in my life. If after some limited effort, I don’t make any breakthroughs with regards to understanding modern poetry, that changes my mind in some major ways, I’ll just walk away for good and let the modern poets do their thing. It’s not like there’s any shortage of amazing classical poetry out there, in English and other languages, to have to suffer and try to “get” this modern stuff that everyone has a right to call poetry since it is their self-expression, but that doesn’t make it it poetry to me.

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