John H. Reid of the Tom Howard Poetry Contest recently described three qualities of successful poems to poets entering contests:
“1. An unusual, intriguing or striking title.
2. An attention-grabbing opening line.
3. A powerful closing line.
It also helps to send in a number of varied entries. I recently read eight sonnets sent in by a talented contestant. Unfortunately, it seemed to me that the sonnet was not quite the right form for these particular poems. The effort required to fit the poet’s ideas and imagery into 14 lines made the poems themselves seem strained and awkward. The poet would have done much better to have adopted a freer style of verse.”