Calling all young poets

Announcing The Christian Science Monitor's 10th annual Young Poets Contest

Anyone in preschool through high school is eligible to enter their poems in this contest. The deadline is Friday, Dec. 2. Winners will be published in the paper in early January.

You may submit one to three original poems by regular mail or e-mail. See this year's poster (requires Adobe Acrobat) for details on how to enter.

Below we provide a few tips about writing poems from this year's contest judge, poet Elizabeth Lund. (Ms. Lund earned an MFA at Cornell University, where she then taught creative writing. Her poems have appeared in journals in the US, Canada, and Britain. She has been a finalist for the Brittingham Prize and the Four Way Books Intro Prize, among others.)

For additional inspiration, you may also want to read last year's winning poems.

10 tips for creating a poem

1. Focus on one image or scene. If you try to tell too much of a story, your poem will be difficult to handle. Or, if you don't start with any image, you will probably make several false starts.

2. The narrative (what's happening) should be clear to a reader by the time the poem is finished.

3. Try to use language that is colorful, surprising, and musical. For example, you could say a girl stands by the water at the beach. Or you could say she stands by the "ocean's kiss" or "ocean's lip." Instead of writing that the apple trees are heavy with fruit, you might try, "apple trees weigh low."

4. Make sure each line is interesting and pulls its weight. Try not to end a line with weak words such as the, and, of, a, or is.

5. Choose a title that adds something to the poem. It could provide important information that isn't given elsewhere, or it may hint at some important themes.

6. Create a mood for the reader.

7. Make sure the poem is more than just a lot of descriptions. Images should work toward a climax or transformation.

8. Make every word count. Try to avoid repeating words or using more than you need to.

9. Give readers the actual experience instead of summarizing it. Rather than saying the ice is cold, make us feel it on our fingers and tongues.

10. Don't be afraid to make changes.

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