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The Plaza Poetry Prize (40 lines) Winners

The Plaza Poetry Prize Winners

Winning Poetry Entries
(titles listed in order)

The judging process is now complete. It’s time to announce the winners. Our thanks go to Moniza Alvi. All the comments below are hers.

1st: ‘Puck’s Glen’
Julie Sheridan (SCO/ESP)

I was immediately struck by the rich texture of ‘Puck’s Glen’, and how the poem truly inhabits language. Scots words, such as ‘a cleugh’ (ravine), ‘birls’ (spins) ‘drookit’ (drenched), take us deep into a compelling landscape. Language is savoured throughout and feels alive, fresh-made: ‘your collie quests up the glen’, ‘the light elopes’. There’s a welcome and unexpected intimacy in how the landscape is evoked in terms of a woman’s body, with ‘pools the colour of warm colostrum’ and the ravine, ‘a dark, pudendal scar’. The name, Puck’s Glen, summons the sprite of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and this sense of enchantment is further conjured: ‘Remember / life before we were witches in the woods? / No, my friend, me neither.’ ‘Puck’s Glen’ is a robust, yet tender poem, strongly engaged with the spirit of place.

2nd:‘Electric Whooper’
John D. Kelly (N.IRE)

A dead whooper swan is a source of animation in a poem of close observation and of revelation. Although mute, this pen swan facilitates both words and music: ‘I hear strange / music willing me to sing, once more’, ‘metronomic wing- / beats hang in the stilled air’. It brings about a musician’s internal awakening: ‘And in my mind, I am centred again, back / at my piano scoring a song, writing / lyrics’, lyrics inspired by, and featuring, the swan. In a powerful, musical vision, the whooper flies ‘in a ‘V’ as the lead note’. The poem travels backwards in time, culminating in the swan’s death by electrocution ‘after shorting / the parallel flow of a deadly charge’. Thus an intensifying, ultimately electric poem, honours the strength of a human connection with the swan and its haunting, enabling otherness.

3rd: ‘When our approximate present does not approximately determine our future’
Melissa Knox Evans (ENG)

This vibrant, disturbing prose poem explores the concept of chaos theory and a movement towards disorder, through a tragic traffic accident. The scenario slips and slides between time and place; the highway I-25 to Lone Tree in the USA and Selangor, Malaysia. The piece builds dramatically, evoking worlds: ‘behind the eyes of spirits’, ‘the Selangor thrummed with fire’, ‘Rain thunders down my windscreen, its dense arrhythmia’. With the flexibility of the prose poem form, this potent imagery is interwoven with everyday language: ‘John’s father calls with another update on his sister’. The piece seems to ride on its own melt, the tension mounts and the turn of events is memorably caught in the searing final vision: ‘for a split second, all I see is the road shiver and shatter open, teeming with wild, wild light’.

Highly Commended: ‘The Last Meatpacker, NYC’
Deidre Sullivan

Set in the Meatpacking District of New York, this lucid poem engages with history, contemporary life and change. The industrial past and fashionable modernity are skilfully juxtaposed: ‘He is a relic in a refrigerated space / under the footsteps / of the High Line / that raised railway now an urban path / of curated grasses and shrubs / leading to designer stores’. This solitary meatpacker moves through a surreal underworld filled with the ghosts of carcasses he shadowboxes: ‘a faux fist slap / on remembered hinds’. The atmosphere of the streets is vividly captured through the weather: ‘Outside, the suffocating / New York haze bakes / Gansevoort Street into slow motion’. Language is fully alive throughout, and the open-ended stanzas contribute to the poem’s dreamlike quality.

Congrats to the winners. They will be published in The Plaza Prizes Anthology 2.

The Plaza Literary: First Chapters Prize is open to enter. Judge: US National Book Award Winner, Jason Mott. 1st prize: £1,500 & Mentoring session. Deadline: 31st July 2024.

The Plaza Poetry Prize Shortlist

Top 10 Poetry Entries
(titles listed in no particular order)

Odeon Days

Puck’s Glen

Frelon

Six Days Without Blinking

The Small Picture

The Last Meatpacker, NYC

Electric Whooper

In Siberia

When our approximate present does not approximately determine our future

Crossing Over

Congrats to the 10 poets who made the shortlist. They will be published in The Plaza Prizes Anthology 2.

The announcement of the winners will happen on the News page next week. So, pop back to see which made the cut.

The Plaza Literary: First Chapters Prize is open to enter. Judge: US National Book Award Winner, Jason Mott. 1st prize: £1,500 & Mentoring session. Deadline: 31st July 2024.

TIPS ON WRITING A SHORT POEM

Tips for Writing Short Poems

Writing a short poem involves several steps and techniques that can help you create a piece that is both expressive and engaging. Here’s a guide to help you through the process:

Step 1: Choose a Theme or Subject
Technique: Free Writing

Spend a few minutes writing down whatever comes to mind about the topic you’re interested in. Don’t worry about structure or rhyme at this stage; just let your thoughts flow.

Step 2: Determine the Form and Structure
Technique: Poetic Forms

Decide if you want to use a specific poetic form such as a haiku, sonnet, limerick, or free verse. Each form has its own rules regarding length, rhyme scheme, and meter.

Step 3: Brainstorm Imagery and Sensory Details
Technique: Sensory Description

Think about how to evoke the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch related to your theme. Write down vivid descriptions and metaphors that bring your subject to life.

Step 4: Create a Draft
Technique: Line Breaks and Enjambment

Start crafting your lines. Pay attention to where you break the lines, as this can affect the poem’s rhythm and emphasis. Use enjambment to create a sense of flow and continuation from one line to the next.

Step 5: Use Sound Devices
Technique: Alliteration, Assonance, and Consonance

Incorporate sound devices to add musicality to your poem. Alliteration (repetition of initial consonant sounds), assonance (repetition of vowel sounds), and consonance (repetition of consonant sounds) can enhance the auditory experience.

Step 6: Refine Your Word Choice
Technique: Thesaurus and Synonym Search

Look for stronger, more precise words to replace any that feel weak or vague. Consider the connotations and sounds of the words you choose.

Step 7: Edit for Conciseness and Clarity
Technique: Cutting and Condensing

Review your draft to eliminate any unnecessary words or lines that don’t contribute to the overall impact. Aim for clarity and brevity.

Step 8: Add a Title
Technique: Summarization

Choose a title that captures the essence of your poem. It should be intriguing and give some insight into the poem’s theme or mood.

STEP BY STEP BREAKDOWN

Theme: Autumn

Step 1: Free Writing

Leaves falling, crisp air, golden hues, change, nostalgia, preparation for winter.

Step 2: Poetic Form

Haiku (5-7-5 syllable structure)

Step 3: Sensory Description

Bright leaves, cool breeze, earthy scent, rustling sounds, the taste of spiced cider.

Step 4: Create a Draft

Golden leaves descend,
Whispers of a crisp cool breeze,
Earth prepares for sleep.

Step 5: Use Sound Devices

Golden leaves descend,
Whispers of a crisp cool breeze,
Winter’s breath to come.

Step 6: Refine Word Choice

Amber leaves descend,
Whispers of a chilled zephyr,
Winter’s breath arrives.

Step 7: Edit for Conciseness and Clarity

Amber leaves drift down,
Whispers of a chilled zephyr,
Winter’s breath arrives.

Step 8: Title

“Autumn’s Prelude”
Final Poem:
Autumn’s Prelude

Amber leaves drift down,
Whispers of a chilled zephyr,
Winter’s breath arrives.

By following these steps and techniques, you can create a concise and vivid poem that captures the essence of your chosen theme.

ENTER NOW. The Plaza Poetry Prize. Judge: Lachlan McKinnon. 1st Prize: £1000 (US$1250). Deadline: 3oth September 2024.

The Plaza Poetry Prize Long List

Top 20 Poetry Entries
(titles listed in no particular order)

Prophecy

Buzzcut

From a Distant Country

An Amnesty of Moss

Odeon Days

When our approximate

Frelon

Swan Catching Ritual

Not Here Yet

Crossing Over

The Small Picture

Under the Hunter’s Moon

6 Days Without Blinking

Puck’s Glen

Electric Whooper

Seaquence

In Siberia

The Last Meatpacker NYC

Cagoule

Compeche Island

Congrats to the 20 poets who made the long list. The standard of entries was high. There were 561 entries in total (including Bursary and 50% Discounted categories).

The announcement of the shortlist of 10 will happen on the News page end of next week. The final 10 will be published in The Plaza Prizes Anthology 2. So, pop back to see which made the cut. 

The Plaza Audio Poetry Prize is open to enter. Judge: Paul Farley. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 30th June 2024.

PULITZER PRIZEWINNING JUDGE

Pulitzer Prizewinner, Junot Díaz, will judge The Plaza Audio Story Prize in 2025

Díaz was born on December 31, 1968, in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. At the age of six, Díaz immigrated with his family to Parlin, New Jersey, to join his father, who had moved to the United States earlier. Growing up in a working-class neighborhood, Díaz faced the challenges of adapting to a new culture and language, experiences that would later profoundly influence his writing. He attended Rutgers University, where he earned a BA in English, and later completed his MFA in Creative Writing at Cornell University.

Díaz first gained national attention with his debut short story collection, Drown (1996). The book’s vivid portrayal of the Dominican-American experience, capturing themes of identity, migration, and cultural conflict, resonated with readers and critics alike. His distinct narrative voice and ability to weave complex emotional landscapes established him as a significant new voice in American literature.

In 2007, Díaz published his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which received widespread acclaim for its inventive narrative style and its exploration of the Dominican diaspora. The novel won numerous prestigious awards, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The story’s blend of historical fiction, magical realism, and pop culture references marked Díaz as a master storyteller capable of bridging diverse genres.

Díaz continued to build on his literary success with the publication of This Is How You Lose Her (2012), a collection of linked stories focusing on themes of love, infidelity, and heartache. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award and further solidified his reputation for creating deeply flawed, yet profoundly human characters.

Beyond his work as a writer, Díaz has made significant contributions as an educator and advocate. He is a professor of creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a founding editor of the Boston Review. Through these roles, he has mentored countless aspiring writers and contributed to the literary community’s growth and diversity.

Díaz’s work is celebrated for its candid exploration of the immigrant experience and its unflinching portrayal of the complexities of identity and belonging. His personal experiences of migration, cultural displacement, and the struggle to find one’s voice are intricately woven into his narratives, providing a powerful lens through which readers can understand broader social and political issues.

More details of when and how to enter The Plaza Audio Short Story Prize will be released soon.

ENTER NOW. The Plaza Literary: First Chapters Prize. Judge: US National Book Award Winner, Jason Mott. 1st Prize: £1500 ($1750) (US$1250). Deadline: 31st July 2024.

The Plaza Short Story Prize Winners

Top 4 Short Story Entries
(titles listed in order)

Thanks to our judge this year, Vanessa Onwuemezi. All comments listed below are hers.

1ST
THE OUTLAW FIDO McGOWAN
CONOR MONTAGUE (IRE)

‘Great story, you could make it into a longer piece if you wanted, the moments immediately following Fido’s death could be more drawn out to process the information we have just learned about them both, their abuse at the hands of this priest. The police arrive very quickly also, another way of drawing it out could be to prolong the ‘hold up’ and make the most of the excellent tension you’ve built.’

2ND
DIRTY CHICKEN & RICE
SIMON ROBERTS (ENG)

‘Very well executed. There’s scope to make this a longer story, going a little more into who Spence was, or the obvious feelings of grief felt by the protagonist could break through a little more, without it tipping over into something overly sentimental.’

3RD
THE POMEGRANATE LADY
LUCY FIELDING (ENG)

‘Great melding of two stories. I’d look for ways to tighten it, the first couple of pages jump around in focus a bit, and therefore we slightly lose the thread of the story. In the first section in italics, I wonder if you could move ‘Once I was seated opposite her…’ to the beginning, to embed us in the scene first, and then you can expand out to our protagonist’s thoughts.’

HIGHLY COMMENDED
BROKEN DOWN MESSIAHS
CHARLES KITCHING (ENG)

‘I enjoyed the long flowing sentences. This piece really has something original in its language use. Some very formal word use was jarring in contrast to this and interrupted the flow, the use of ‘thus’ and ‘one’, for example. The mixture between the Simple and Perfect Past tenses could be looked at.’

Congrats to these writers, who will be awarded their prizes at our second awards ceremony in Malta, in mid-October, 2024. They will also be published in The Plaza Prizes Anthology 2.

The Plaza Audio Poetry Prize is open to enter. Why not experiment with new technology and a different form? Judge: Paul Farley. 1st prize: £1,000. Deadline: 30th June 2024.

HOW TO RECORD YOUR AUDIO POEM

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to record an audio poem on your phone for submission to a competition:

1. Prepare Your Poem
Choose or Write Your Poem: Ensure your poem is complete and ready for recording.
Practice Reading: Read the poem aloud several times to familiarize yourself with the flow and identify any tricky sections.
Mark Your Script: Mark pauses, intonations, and emphasis points on your poem script.

2. Set Up Your Recording Environment
Quiet Space: Find a quiet location with minimal background noise. Do not record in a big room with ‘hard’ surfaces, in which you can hear your voice. Try using a smaller space. Use a duvet or blankets to ‘soften’ surfaces as this will improve the chances to recording your voice so it sounds like you.
Turn Off Interruptions: Put your phone on airplane mode to avoid interruptions from calls or notifications.

3. Choose a Recording App
Default Voice Recorder: Use the built-in voice recording app on your phone (e.g., Voice Memos on iPhone, Voice Recorder on Android).
Download an App: If you need more features, download a dedicated recording app such as “Voice Record Pro” (iOS) or “Hi-Q MP3 Voice Recorder” (Android).

4. Record Your Poem
Open the App: Launch your chosen recording app.
Position Your Phone: Hold or place your phone about 6-12 inches from your mouth.
Test Recording: Make a short test recording to check the sound quality and volume. Adjust your distance and the phone’s microphone direction as needed.
Record the Poem: Start recording and read your poem clearly and steadily. Aim for natural intonation and expressiveness.
Pause and Edit: If your app allows, pause if needed and continue recording. Edit out mistakes if your app supports editing.

5. Review and Edit the Recording
Listen to the Recording: Play back the recording to ensure clarity and quality.
Edit If Needed: Use the app’s editing features to trim, cut, or enhance the audio.
Add Effects: If allowed by the competition, consider adding minimal background music or sound effects to enhance the poem.

6. Save and Export the File
Save the Recording: Save the file in a high-quality format (e.g., MP3 or WAV).
Rename the File: Give it a clear and descriptive name, following any naming conventions specified by the competition.
Backup Your File: Save a copy of the recording in another location (cloud storage, external drive) as a backup.
Get Feedback: If possible, get feedback from friends or family or a CW workshop before final submission.

7. Submit the Recording
Check Submission Guidelines: Review the competition’s submission requirements (file format, length, etc.).
Meet the Deadline: Ensure you submit your recording before the competition deadline.
Transfer the File: Transfer the file to your computer if necessary, using a USB cable, cloud service (like Google Drive or Dropbox), or email.
Submit: Follow the competition’s submission process, which might involve uploading the file to a website, sending it via email, or using a specific file transfer service.

By following these steps, you should be able to produce a high-quality audio recording of your poem ready for submission. Good luck with your entry!

ENTER The Plaza Audio Poetry Prize. Judge: Paul Farley. 1st Prize: £1000 (US$1250). Deadline: 3oth June 2024.

The Plaza Short Story Shortlist

Top 10 Short Story Entries
(titles listed in no particular order)

Genjo-no Oba

The Single Glove Museum

The Outlaw Fido McGowan

Sekijang Island

A Sea Storm

Dirty Chicken Rice

Broken Down Messiahs

The Beloved

The Pomegranate Lady

Return of the Egrets

Congrats to the 10 writers who made the shortlist. They will be published in The Plaza Prizes Anthology 2.

The announcement of the winners will happen on the News page end of next week, so check-in to see which stories make the cut.

The NEW 2024 Plaza Literary: First Chapters Prize, judged by US National Book Award Winner, Jason Mott, is open to enter. 1st prize: £1,500 ($1750). Deadline: 31st July 2024.

ZERO KAMIKAZE ENTRIES

Please edit and rewrite your work thoroughly

The Plaza Prizes have the finest judges in the world, including US National Book Award Winner, Jason Mott. And you will be up against the best writers and poets in the world, truly global competition. If you submit to The Plaza Literary: First Chapters Prize without editing your work to the highest publishing standards, it’s like volunteering to be a kamikaze on a one-way crash-and-burn mission.

Cultivating a robust editorial process, using all the fantastic AI tools now at a writer’s disposal, ensures that your work will be polished and professional when it is read by our judges. Think of a judge as a highly idealistic, but critical reader. They want to discover brilliant pieces of writing, new voices, more than anything, but they are actively seeking reasons to reject the work if it is not up to the highest standards.

Don’t make silly mistakes, especially at the beginning of your novel. That gives judges reasons to stop reading, and reject your work. Establish flow. Engage them. Small mistakes matter less later on because by that point, if you are doing your ‘job’ you will have established ‘authority’, the reader will care, be compelled to read on, cannot ‘put it down’.

Here is a comprehensive outline of best practices, including the use of new AI tools for writers:

1. Initial Read-Through
Objective: Get a sense of the overall flow and identify major issues.
Tips: Read your manuscript from start to finish without making any changes. Note down any immediate concerns regarding structure, pacing, or major plot points.

2. Structural Edit
Objective: Focus on the big picture elements like plot, structure, pacing, and character development.
Steps:
Plot Consistency: Ensure there are no plot holes or inconsistencies.
Character Arcs: Check that characters have clear development and arcs.
Pacing: Make sure the story flows smoothly without dragging or rushing.
AI Tools:
Scrivener: Helps in organizing and structuring your manuscript.
Dabble: Useful for outlining and plotting.

3. Line Edit
Objective: Improve sentence structure, clarity, and flow.
Steps:
Sentence Structure: Vary sentence length and structure for better readability.
Clarity and Conciseness: Remove redundant words and ensure each sentence is clear.
AI Tools:
Grammarly: Helps in correcting grammar, punctuation, and style issues.
ProWritingAid: Provides detailed reports on style, grammar, and readability.

4. Copy Edit
Objective: Focus on grammar, punctuation, and spelling.
Steps:
Grammar: Correct any grammatical errors.
Punctuation: Ensure proper use of punctuation marks.
Spelling: Fix any spelling mistakes.
AI Tools:
Hemingway Editor: Highlights complex sentences and common errors.
Ginger Software: Another option for grammar and spell checking.

5. Proofreading
Objective: Catch any remaining typos and minor errors.
Steps:
Final Read-Through: Slowly read through the manuscript to catch typos.
Text-to-Speech: Use text-to-speech tools to hear your text and catch errors you might miss while reading.
AI Tools:
NaturalReader: Converts text to speech for an auditory proofreading experience.
Microsoft Word: Built-in spell check and grammar tools.

6. Feedback and Revision
Objective: Get external feedback and make necessary revisions.
Steps:
Beta Readers: Share your manuscript with beta readers for feedback.
Critique Groups: Join a writing group to get constructive criticism.
AI Tools:
Fictionary: Helps with story editing based on feedback.
Reedsy: Platform to find professional editors and beta readers.

7. Final Polish
Objective: Ensure the manuscript is clean and professional.
Steps:
Formatting: Make sure your manuscript adheres to the competition’s formatting guidelines.
Cover Letter: Write a compelling cover letter if required.
AI Tools:
Atticus: For formatting your manuscript professionally.
AutoCrit: Helps refine your manuscript to meet industry standards.

Additional Tips:
Set a Deadline: Ensure you have ample time for each stage of editing.
Take Breaks: Give yourself some time between edits to see your work with fresh eyes.
Stay Objective: Try to maintain an objective view of your work to make necessary cuts and changes.
Using AI tools can significantly enhance your editing process, but it’s essential to combine them with traditional editing techniques and human feedback for the best results.

ENTER The Plaza Literary: First Chapters Prize. Judge: Jason Mott. 1st Prize: £1,500 (US$1750). Deadline: 31st July 2024.

PROWRITINGAID SPONSORSHIP

ProWritingAid Sponsors The Plaza Literary: First Chapters Prize

ProWritingAid, the essential toolkit that helps storytellers reach their full potential, is proud to announce its sponsorship of The Plaza Prizes Literary: First Chapters Prize.

“We are thrilled to partner with The Plaza Prizes and support emerging writers taking their first step towards getting published,” says Chris Banks, CEO of ProWritingAid. “ProWritingAid is the perfect fit for writers looking to bring their vision and their story to life.”

‘You cannot edit your work enough for a literary contest,’ says Simon Kerr, Director of The Plaza Prizes. ‘The bar is set incredibly high, so try using ProWritingAid FREE and edit your work thoroughly BEFORE submitting. Make sure there is not even one typo in your submission.’

The winner will receive £1500 ($1750); mentoring from Jason Mott; and a year long subscription to ProWritingAid Premium Pro (worth £144/$160).

ProWritingAid will be also be providing FREE AI-generated critiques for every submission to this competition. Feedback on your work is incredibly important to develop your editing/rewriting skill-sets.

Whether writers are just starting out or are seasoned novelists, ProWritingAid can help unlock creativity and get the ink flowing. With this new partnership, entrants to The Plaza Prizes have an edge when it comes to making those all-important first chapters truly shine.

ENTER The Plaza Literary: First Chapters Prize. Judge: Jason Mott. 1st Prize: £1,500 (US$1750). Deadline: 31st July 2024.

Girl in a jacket

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