We asked Matthew Hedley Stoppard what he’d be looking for when judging the competition. He said:
There is plenty of room for everyone in poetry. Much like with “folk music”, there isn’t a definitive description of what poetry is. Plenty of rules, but nothing solid where soundbites are concerned. So I’m not looking for a particular form or theme or structure or metre when reading the poems submitted to the competition. What I do appreciate is a poet who has taken pride in presenting their poem; double-, even triple-checked spellings and typos, consistency in style and consideration for the poem’s title. I like to see evidence of a thorough editing process, signs of a poet who has sought stronger words for weaker ones, or perhaps a flair for textual economy. When asked how long it took him to write a poem, Norman McCaig replied: “Two fags!” Yet I know most poets go through forty-odd drafts before they are happy with their efforts – Dylan Thomas famously produced the first line of ‘In the White Giant’s Thigh’ after two weeks of crossings-out and head scratching. You have my assurance that all poems will be read and get a fair hearing, no matter how they came be poems. Be mindful of the competition’s rules, and good luck.