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The number one question our editors receive is—what do the editors and judges look for when judging the contest? The number one answer we give is creativity. Unlike prose, writing composed in everyday language, poetry is considered a creative art and requires a different type of effort and a certain level of depth. Of the thousands of poems entered in each contest, the ones that catch our judges’ eyes are the ones that remove us, even just slightly, from the scope of everyday life by using language that is interesting, specific, vivid, obscure, compelling, figurative, and so on. Oftentimes, poems are pulled aside for a second look based simply on certain words that intrigued the reader. So first and foremost, be sure your poetry is written using creative language. Take general ideas and make them personal. In his infamous book De/Compositions: 101 Good Poems Gone Wrong, W. D. Snodgrass imparts, “We cannot honestly discuss or represent our lives, any more than our poems, without using ideational language.”

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