ARE POETRY COMPETITIONS A GOOD THING?
‘Poetry is not a competition’. I quote from the adjudicator’s report by the Poet Laureate for the 2007 Plough Poetry competition. He goes on to remark that ‘it’s also fair to say poetry competitions are a Good Thing.’ Good or not, they are certainly not new, dating back at least to the Greeks and Romans, if not before. Nowadays it can seem as if every writers’ group of any size, every poetry magazine with a cash problem, is running a poetry competition. The number certainly seems to have increased, but I think the real change is in the entrants. The competitor in the traditional poetry competition belonged to a recognised, if not an elite group. He (it was almost always a he) was a professional poet on the make. The same group exists today, of course, and professional poets often do enter the more prestigious poetry competitions, but they are no longer the exclusive entrants. The decline, or supposed decline, in poetry reading among the general public is often lamented. The extraordina