Sunday, January 14, 2007

Inside the Competition

Every once in a while the editors will be posting a few comments about Floating Bridge Press's annual poetry chapbook competition. You might even call these suggestions.

I thought I'd start things off with a couple of minor points that make a difference to those of us who read many manuscripts.

1. Please pay close attention to all competition guidelines. It is very tedious to accomodate manuscripts that are not three-hole punched or labeled with title on each page, etc. Manuscripts that arrive straight-jacketed in fancy binders and sleeves must be "disrobed" and that just means more work for us. Keep things simple and follow directions. Don't you want to start with your best foot forward?

2. You might not realize that extra-fancy bond paper or an unusual, eye-catching font actually detracts from your work. Our idea of a beautiful manuscript is one that is full of beautiful poems.

Here's one a little more substantive.

3. During my years as a co-editor and co-judge, I have often poured over the acknowledgments sections of our submissions after the competition is concluded and done some Monday-morning quarterbacking.

I've noticed that the quality of the chapbook manuscript is not correlated to the number of previously published poems it contains. It is much more important that the manuscript be cohesive, either because of a strong (and consistent) voice, sensibility, or theme. A chapbook is different animal than a full-length book. It needs to establish its "reason to be" within the first handful of poems.

If poem A was published in Poetry but doesn't fit the theme, and poem B is unpublished but compliments the poems around it, choose poem B. Not only will B make your manuscript stronger, there's a good bet the manuscript will make poem B shine.

More chapbook ideas in the coming weeks.

Kathleen Flenniken, Editor


Blogger With Hammer And Tong...The LetterShaper said...

As a poet, and an avid reader, I have to say that I very much enjoyed my leisurely stroll through your was time well spent; entertaining and enlightening.

10:09 PM  

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