This is the home of poetry on our site and here is where we’ll explore verse in its many wondrous incarnations. And there are indeed numerous incarnations of poetry that cover the whole spectrum from poems with tight, traditional structures to free form and prose poetry, featuring every imaginable style and boundary-pushing technique. Indeed, attempting to define poetry or nail down what makes a poem is no easy task. We’re not going to delve too deeply into that here, but we do like these particular thoughts on poetry from some of the greats:
Poets on Poetry
“If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?” — Emily Dickinson
“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” — Robert Frost
“As a guiding principle I believe that every poem must be its own sole freshly created universe, and therefore have no belief n ‘tradition’ or a common myth-kitty or casual allusions in poems to other poems or poets, which last I find unpleasantly like the talk of literary understrappers letting you see they know the right people.” — Philip Larkin
“Poetry is the deification of reality.” — Edith Sitwell
“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.” — William Wordsworth
“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.” — Alice Walker
“You can find poetry in your everyday life, your memory, in what people say on the bus, in the news, or just what’s in your heart.” — Carol Ann Duffy
“Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.” — Percy Bysshe Shelley
“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” — Rita Dove
How to Write Poetry
Anyone who can think or feel and write, can write a poem. Whether it is any good or not is another matter of course. And indeed, deciding whether a poem is “good” is a troublesome task (as we have discovered when running our poetry competitions – though luckily we brought in a guest judge for the last one).
Of course, if you intend to write poetry it certainly makes sense to have read (or set about reading) lots of poetry, across the ages and the genres. There are numerous anthologies out there to give you a snapshot of poetry from particular periods or covering specific subjects or styles. We have always been drawn to the exceptional collection, The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Robert Frost*. The collection not only brings you some of the greatest poetry ever written, but also pages of insightful and sometimes masterful commentary on the poems and poetry featured by the brilliant literary critic, Harold Bloom.
There are also plenty of books and courses to help guide you when it comes to writing poetry. We won’t go into these here as we’ll produce individual articles about them at some point in the future. If you are interested in a great introductory course to writing poetry, we can highly recommend the Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop* course from Cousera (one of our editors did the course, and one of the poems he wrote and refined using the tools on the course got shortlisted for the Bridport Prize). The best thing about the course is that you can enrol and complete the course for free (though there is a charge if you would like to receive a certificate upon completion, though this is optional).
*Note that if you click through the links on this page and make a purchase, we will receive a small payment.
We regularly update our list of the best poetry competitions, and though almost all are open to unpublished poets, some have massive prizes. Our very own New Writers Poetry Competition offers a top prize of £1,000 (not bad for 40 lines of poetry!), and it attracted some exceptional entries (you can see the winners of the 2023 Poetry Competition here). Here are some of the other highly regarded poetry competitions that are worth considering:
- Bridport Prize – As with their other prizes (including their Novel Prize and Short Story Prize), winning the Bridport is considered very impressive by those in the literary world. The top prize of £5,000 isn’t bad either!
- Manchester Poetry Prize – Run by the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, the Manchester Poetry Prize is fast becoming one of the most prestigious in the UK, helped in no small part by the massive £10,000 top prize.
- National Poetry Competition – Organised by The Poetry Society, which has been promoting “a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry” and has published The Poetry Review since 1912, the National Poetry Competition is about as prestigious as it gets for non-professional poets. They get thousands of entries each year so it’s clearly a tough one to win, but if you do, it could open plenty of doors.
There are numerous other poetry competitions around, which you can check in our listings, many of which offer smaller prizes and hence attract fewer entries (and so, in theory at least, should be easier to win). Indeed, there are lots of poetry competitions that offer free entry (though usually rather modest prizes). Another option would be to send your poems to some of the many literary journals out there. Some will offer payment (though many won’t), but they can be a great way to get your poetry into the world. You can find listings of journals and organisations seeking submissions at Chill Subs and various other similar sites.