Contests' Judging Criteria

Poetry Prize Awards ’20 — Judging Criteria

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All entries for the Poetry Prize Awards ’20 will be judged based on the following criteria.


  • Form/Style —

The character of the poem, like Rhymed and Metered (RM) or Free Verse (FV). Each poem will looked at for what it is and not compared to others.

  • Rhyme/Rhythm —

Whether rhyme and/or rhythm are a characteristic of the poem, and if so, whether the rhymes are natural and sensible or artificial and forced, and whether the rhythm (which also applies to free verse) is consistent with the character of the poem.

  • Poetic Devices —

The number and effectiveness of those poetic elements that raise poetry beyond prose — there are at least 15 of them, including rhyme, alliteration, personification, and so on. Without their use, the writing becomes prose.

  • Comprehension/Coherence

Do the ideas presented hang together to create a whole? Is there “meaning” to the writing, and is that meaning realized?

  • Mood/Imagery

Does the poem illustrate its message — can we feel the feelings and/or visualize the images presented? How significant are those images to the purpose of the poem?

  • Word Selection

Has the writer chosen the words of the poem to enable the poem to reach its intent? Are there clichés or overused imagery (we know the sky is blue) to weaken the conveyance of meaning?

  • Scope/Significance

Does the poem deal with the human experience, and if so, to what extent is the poem successful in adding to our understanding?

  • Line Endings/Line Breaks

Are these visual aids used successfully to create emphasis and to carry the reader to the main significance of the writing? In free verse, are the line endings used to create emphasis, and are the line breaks used to create a longer pause that is significant?

  • Punctuation/Spelling/Grammar

Does the poet respect  language conventions and provide punctuation to aid the reader in understanding of the poem? Do spelling errors interrupt the flow of the poem’s language? Are there distortions of word order that seem artificial and obscure meaning?

  • Content Realized

The poem had a purpose when it started out — did the poem realize its intentions? Does it lead naturally to its conclusion?

  • Universality —

Is the subject matter of the poem meaningful only to the poet, or does it apply to the human condition? If it were translated into another language — German, French, Spanish, Italian, Afrikaans, etc. — would it still be meaningful to a reader in that language?

Based of the judging criteria set by

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