I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

I think most of us believe we have more of it than we really do. Or at least we believe we should.

So that feeling out of it feels either really wrong or totally liberating.

2020 has shown how easy it can be for it to slip away.

It has also underlined the importance of having a clear and realistic understanding of just what you can and cannot control.

In submitting work to a poetry contest, you give up a measure of control. Your poem must stand alone, to be judged solely on what it contains. You can’t give it context or drop hints on how it should be received. It comes down to your poem and the judge alone in the space of the page.

Therefore, I humbly suggest that you pay meticulous attention to what you can control when you make your submissions.

To wit:

  • when you have your submission assembled, check each element against the contest rules: have you included all the information requested, in the manner and form in which it was requested? is your poem in the proper format?
  • count the number of lines in your poem again: are your sure the poem is under the line maximum? did you count the title, the blank lines, and the epigraph (if any)?
  • read your poem aloud one more time before you click the send button: when you speak it aloud, does it sound like it does in your head? did you catch any misspellings or misusage of words?

Give your poem every opportunity to succeed. Don’t let it fail due to a technicality.

Now, I’m happy to share with you this poem by North Carolina Poetry Society Board Member-at-Large Paul Jones, which was originally published in River Heron Review’s Poems for Now:

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