Anyone in preschool through high school is eligible. Entries must be postmarked or submitted online by Friday, Dec. 1. We'll publish the winning poems in early January.
Submit up to three poems; you choose the subject. Remember to keep the focus of your poem narrow and your descriptions specific. Below, we provide a few tips for writing a poem. You may also want to read winning poems from previous years - see the winners from 2005, 2004, and 2003.
If you have questions, please e-mail the Home Forum.
You don't want to follow rules when you write, but it's helpful to remember certain things before you pick up your pen:
1. Focus on one image or scene. If you try to tell too much of a story, your poem will be difficult to handle. Likewise, not starting with any image means that you'll 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 that a girl stands right 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, 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 that 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. Instead of saying that ice is cold, make us feel it on our fingers and tongues.
10. The point of view (who's speaking) and the logic in the poem should remain consistent. If your poem is surreal, don't try to make it sound realistic halfway through. Likewise, don't start out with an inanimate object in a serious poem and then suddenly make it start talking.
11. Don't be afraid to make changes.
• Elizabeth Lund