Preparing for National Poetry Day – two events!

Some very blatant pimping: I’m putting together two things for this year’s National Poetry Day, which takes place on Friday August 24th.

The first, as those of you who visit regularly may have feared, is my own version of the CV2 Two-Day Poem Contest:

The 2018 National Poetry Day 24-Hour Poem Competition

Yep, that’s right. I’m only going to give people 24 hours to come up with their poem. The thing is, although it seems like an insanely difficult challenge, people in my poetry classes regularly come up with genuinely impressive work in thirty minutes or less. So I know that it is possible. And everyone will be under exactly the same restrictions, so the playing field will be level. And my own experience of the CV2 contest was that most of the time was spent trying to distract myself, desperately hoping my subconscious mind would come up with some sort of approach to the whole thing. Looking for inspiration. Procrastinating. All those good things. So you can log on at midnight, get the ten words, then see what your sleeping brain can come up with. And spend time over the day visiting as many different Poetry Day events as you can in order to soak up the poetic energy that will be washing over the country. Then retire in the evening to polish your poem, check that you’ve followed the rules and managed to use all ten words, before uploading your entry and drifting off to sleep in the satisfaction of a Job Well Done. (Or at least, well, done.)

If you need some additional temptation, how about this: the winner will get a copy of each of the five shortlisted poetry books in this year’s Ockham Book Awards. Yep, that’s five books, all yours, thanks to the amazing generousity of the five publishers.(If you agree that this is a generous move – and it very definitely is – do please click on the links and go visit their websites. Ideally also buy some books from them, but at least if you click through they’ll know that sponsoring this competition was worthwhile.) The runner-up and a special guest pick (the Organiser’s Husband’s Choice) will also get copies of those five books, in a ratio yet to be decided, but likely three to the runner-up and two to the OHC.

Best of all, the competition is FREE. Yep, as well as the books I’ve managed to get a bit of money from the official National Poetry Day war-chest to cover costs, so you won’t need to pay anything to take part.

To take part you do have to pre-register by August 17th, so why not take the plunge and head on to the Official NPD2018 24-Hour Poem Competition Sign-up Page, where you can peruse the rules, register for the event, and dream of fame, fortune, frenzy and a feast of fabulous poetry books …

But wait, there’s more. Because I know how hard it is to get feedback on poems, because I too have stacks of rejections from editors with  some variation on the theme of “thanks, but no thanks” and no idea whether I was close, or way off; on the cusp, or completely wasting my time … I bring to you the second event:

Speed Date an Editor

Yep, you heard it right. It’s something I’ve been suggesting other people run for a while now, but I’ve finally taken the hint and decided to put the damn thing on myself. With the assistance of Jeni Curtis, Gail Ingram and Erik Kennedy.

It’s happening at the Laboratory in Lincoln on the Sunday after Poetry Day (August 26th), so that we don’t clash with other events. In brief: up to sixteen people will have the chance to put a poem in front of four editors in turn. You’ll get seven minutes to talk about what works, what doesn’t and what to do next. Then you’ll move on to the next editor, and repeat the process. And again. And once more. Editorial feedback, but speed-date style!

I’ve been able to get funding the fabulousy supportive Selwyn District Council Creative Communities Fund so that I can offer this at a measley $5 per person. Not per editor: per person. Per punter. You, in other words. How‘s that for a bargain?

If this appeals, or even just arouses your curiousity, head over to the Speed Date an Editor page. We can only take 16 people, so this is definitely not one to wait around to ponder at length about.

Why seven minutes? To give long enough, but not too long.  The comments are not going to be incredibly detailed, but my own experience is that a good editor can pinpoint most problems after only a couple of read-throughs. And the time limit will mean that the feedback should be easier to take for those who aren’t used to having their work critiqued – it can be daunting, I know. And it’s important that the four editors don’t get too tired either – we have to be as engaged for the sixteenth person as we are able to be for the first. Short blocks of time will help with that. The other advantage of the Speed Date model is that the opinions of the four of us will tend to balance out – one person’s individual likes or dislikes being tempered by the other three’s opinions. 

Why The Laboratory at lunchtime? Because poetry should be seen. Because we want to demystify the practice of editing. Because we want ordinary people to see poems being worked on, and understand that it doesn’t involve voodoo or animal sacrifice or editors slavering and digging in their talons. Because being able to sit down afterwards with a pint of superb craft beer and something delicious to eat is a fitting way to celebrate the craft of poetry. And because we get hungry and thirsty too, and love this venue. Just as they love us.

So there you have it. Two events for Poetry Day: the 24 Hour Poem Competition and the chance to Speed Date an Editor. What more could you ask for?

To see what else is happening on National Poetry Day, visit

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