Monday, February 8, 2010

Who Are Our Winners, How Are They Chosen, and Where Are They Found?

So what kind of people enter amateur poetry contests? Here at Eber & Wein Publishing, we have discovered that just about every kind of person in fact enters our contests. We receive poetry from five-year-olds, ninety-five year olds, and of course everyone in between. Our participants are grade school students, college students, tradesmen, working professionals, stay-at-home mothers, farmers, clergy, and prison inmates. Many are true students of poetry who enjoy studying and learning from the works of professional and classic poets, while others enjoy writing poetry at a more leisurely level.

One of our most recent second prize winners of $100, Jovel Queirolo, was most excited about her poem “Cold Tea” being published in Treasures, volume 10 of The Wishing Well series. She has been writing poetry since she was a teenager and her goal is to one day publish her own book of poems, “To somehow combine a love of the written word and philosophy to better understand my world,” she says. When asked about her overall experience with the contest, Queirolo remarks, “What you’re doing for young poets like me is great. It gives us a sense that what we do with our poetry matters. Poetry matters. And it always will.”

Another interesting participant and second place winner is Friedrich “Fred” Wurzbach, a painter, handyman, custodian, mason, school bus driver, and philosopher. His goal as a poet is to “keep writing better poems, perfect the craft, to try making rhymes and music to the ear while telling a story or exploring abstract concepts.” Wurzbach’s poem “Sheila” is featured in Gatherings, volume 6 of The Wishing Well series.

Sue Binder, a mental health counselor who has been writing poetry for fifty-five years, finds inspiration in her work, which deals with domestic violence and that often involves working with inmates in the prison system. She claims she “had some emotional feedback from inmates in prison when they read my poem in your book. Hopefully, thought-provoking to them . . . one can only hope.” Sue’s poem “Anticipation” is featured in Recollections, volume 4 in The Wishing Well series.

Although most of our winners and many participants contact us in one way or another, we unfortunately don’t have nearly the amount of space it would take to share the stories of all of them. But the message we wish to convey is this: our contest is for anyone of any background and any education level. As it is an amateur contest, our intentions are to be inclusive rather than exclusive—which means formal training in creative writing is not a must. As a matter of fact, a good number of our winners have not had any formal training in poetry (although a nice introduction to poetry handbook is always helpful). So what stands out to our judges here at Eber and Wein? Most of our participants are well aware that what distinguishes poetry from prose are prevalent poetic elements such as imagery and figurative language (the use of metaphor). Rhyme and meter are also important when dealing with a more traditional style of poetry, and alliteration, personification, assonance, are various other techniques one can employ the use of to enhance poetic appeal. Poems that contain evidence of any of these combined with theme, tone, and language stand out the most. A good rhyming poem has a set meter and is free of forced rhyme. In a free verse poem, language should be vivid, surprising, detailed—not vague, general, and cliché. Of course one thing we really like to see is when poets attempt a particular style, for example the villanelle, pantoum, limerick, etc. So who has a decent chance at winning our contest? Anyone who is passionate about the craft of poetry and who makes a concerted effort to employ poetic elements and technique!

We would love nothing more than to be able to publish an anthology that includes all the winners of a contest; however, because some take much longer than others to return their Author’s Proof , it is just not possible. Therefore, the poems of our prizewinners are scattered throughout a series. Some volumes of a series may include more winning poems than others, but this is completely random. Winners and semi-finalists alike are assigned to whichever book is ready for the layout process at the time we receive their signed Author’s Proof. And although the majority of our winners do return their Author’s Proof, some do not. Without this signed document giving consent to publish, we will not include them in the anthologies.