We’re getting a steady stream of entries for the 2021 NZPS International Poetry Competition. Plenty of time to enter – entries close May 31, midnight NZ time. Click here for the guidelines and entry forms.

This week, our judge for the Open Junior category, Chris Tse, shares his thoughts about what he looks for in a poem.

Chris Tse

As a reader, I love it when a poem surprises me with a unique juxtaposition or an unexpected twist in tone or narrative direction. These surprises are what make me want to re-read a poem over and over again. As a poet, you should also be aiming to surprise yourself with your own work. I love reading poems where you can tell the poet is having fun experimenting and pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. Don’t be held back by what you think you have to say – write down what you need to say.

When used carefully, concrete details can really bring an image or a whole poem to life. These are the things that readers grab hold of to help them find a way into a poem, or to make sense of the world that the poem exists in. Be specific, but use details sparingly – you don’t want your poem to be bogged down by being overly descriptive. It’s about finding that balance to draw the reader in while also giving them room to move around within the poem.

Look for new ways of making the familiar feel fresh and exciting. There are a lot of poems out there about the big topics like love, relationships, and death. That’s not to say poets shouldn’t write about these things, but think about how you can write about them differently – what’s the unique perspective that you bring to the page?

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