MAG Poetry Prize - Report 2009

Prize fund

310 entries (from 210 entrants) were received. The total prize fund was thus £620 split 1st £310, 2nd £155, 3rd £93, 4th £62.

Report on the judging

Did the better poems reach the final shortlist of 12? Everyone's choice would of course be different but the final shortlist of 12 poems did seem to represent the best writing in a diversity of styles. Certainly, a number of those on the final shortlist have achieved recognition elsewhere. Inevitably, some very good poems didn't reach the final 12.

Was the judging consistent? Interestingly, three entrants entered the same poem twice! The scores of the duplicated poems were remarkably similar. Also, where entrants entered more than one poem, the relative performance made sense. For example three of those on the final shortlist had entered another poem - in each case the second poem was placed in the top 30.

In the first round poems were read on average 11 times, in the second round 39 times and in the third round 103 times. A lot of poetry was being read! 78% of entrants judged round 1, 69% judged round 2 and 49% judged round 3.

Alternatively put, 70% of those that participated in the second round also judged the final shortlist (even though they had no personal interest in the outcome).

The results reflect entirely the scoring of the entrants. No adjustments were made.

The format of poetry competitions has long been well established: a named judge (or a small panel of judges) selects a winner having read either all the entries or only a pared down "long list." The successful testing of this new judging mechanism has demonstrated that there is now a serious alternative.

What the entrants said about the poetry contest

"I think the opportunity to judge other poems is invaluable in helping writers to see what works. I had always assumed that poems with striking/original metaphors and descriptions would stand out. However, when judging a group of poems I found that I was drawn to those that conveyed an emotional truth,"
commented Francesca McMahon (before she knew that she had won!).

"... What this has done is cast a very critical light on my own attempts...I'm hoping that now, when I stray into excessively purple areas, I will reign myself in and try that bit harder to write and rewrite,"
commented one participant.

"I have found the competition very interesting and unlike anything I have done before. I enjoyed doing my judging. I think it was an inspired idea."

"I am most impressed by how well-organised the MAG Poetry Prize has been. It's really refreshing to not only enter a contest, but to be involved in the whole process and read such a varied selection of poetry. It's for that reason that the MAG prize feels more like a community than a competition."

"This has been a fun process and very useful."

"It is a very democratic method of judging, and hopefully it will produce a winning poem that most people would want to read."

"I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved. I have loved the fact that it has attracted such diverse approaches, and that the work I have been reading reflects the joy of human preference."

"I have been amazed at how many people from all over the world have entered. I read through them most days and it's a great way to get everyone enjoying poetry."

"Great final 12. This competition has been enormous fun."

Funds raised for MAG (Mines Advisory Group)

The poetry competition raised £310 for MAG (Mines Advisory Group).

Peter Hartey
MAG Poetry Prize

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