Part II. Awards & Contests

  1. Are The Major Awards Inbred?
  2. What About Those Contests?
  3. Anthologies: Should You Be In One?
  4. Common Errors In Contest Submissions
  5. Judging Our Contests
  6. Win A Subscription

1. Arethe Major Awards Inbred?

We really do not know for certain. But, like you, we wonder if the next generation of Frosts, Whitmans and Millays are being groomed by association… whether a fine young poet can ever become a “name” without the connections which come from having a mentor is debatable. We do not suggest anything salacious here. Rather, we worry that at these conferences and workshops when one well-known poet introduces his/her protege to other well-known poets and vice-versa what is the outcome.

Later, when chapbooks are entered for competition are the judges able to remain objective when they have met the up and coming proteges?

Perhaps. We do hope so.

2. What About Those Contests? 

Contests are probably the most popular way of funding literary magazines. Without the fiscal power of a major press, university or grants (which often impose restrictions or inhibit individual creativity), most magazines must coordinate contests to meet the increasing budget demands of typesetting, lay-out, printing, binding, distribution and postage.

How do you know what’s legit? What is worth trying for? What prestige will your winning garner? Our theory is to order a sample copy. You can judge the competition by not only the winning poems, but also by those selected for inclusion in the issue.

For us, the yearly contest garners sufficient revenue to not only produce the magazine, but also to constantly upgrade The Comstock Review and increase cash awards to poets. Someday we may stop the contest (though it is such great fun for us), but for now, it is still a thrill to be out of the cupcake and turkey raffle business. Is ours legit?

You bet! We judge the poems blind and let the best rise to the top for our final judge (each year a different well-known, well-respected poet who is not connected to our group).

  3. Anthologies: Should You Be In One?

We remember the exultation we had when in high school or college, the letter arrived telling us that we’d been accepted into a national poetry anthology. Yes, of course, we, or our parents, purchased it! Others, more affluent than we, bought copies for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, old teachers, on infinitum. Years later, after we read the twenty-seven others poems squoooze onto the same page, we realized that everyone who had what s/he thought was a poem was accepted. How disheartening.

Should you be in an anthology? That you need to answer for yourself.

Knowing full well that shlock and genius poetry will appear side-by-side and that you may be required to pay for a copy (upwards to $35) for the “privilege” of being printed, you decide. Is it worth it to me? Maybe. But don’t sell your poetry short or it will always come up “short.”

4. Common Errors In Contest Submissions

  1. Remember to include ID info on the back of each entry… [Name, address, telephone, e-mail, fax.]
  2. Enclose a SASE for contest results.
  3. Keep copies of your poems… contest entries are not returned.
  4. Put sufficient postage on your envelope… no one wants to go to the Post Office and pay for it.
  5. Follow the contest directions.

    If you are asked to use white paper… use white paper If you are asked to use 8 1/2 x 11… do so If you are asked to double-space, double-space

    If you are asked to anything, there is a good reason… most contests will take your money and toss your poems if you fail to follow directions…

  6. If there is a fee to enter, enclose a check or money order.
  7. Make certain you have sufficient funds to cover the check.
  8. Please do not call within minutes of the deadline to get results…

Reputable editors read all the poems at single sittings to give a fair, impartial reading to each… in our case, 5-7 professionals read each and grade them 0-5+. Then, we send the top 25 to the judge hired for the final scoring. It takes several weeks for the process to be completed. We call as soon as the results are official.

5. Judging Our Contests

We are often asked by our poets how we go about judging our poetry contest, and we would like to share this with you. We think it’s a fair and impartial way; possibly it may give some ideas to readers who also must judge at contests. First, as poems come in, they are put in a file without being read. the envelopes are separated from the poetry. When all entries have been received, we read all the poems and score each one. Scores range from 0-5+. Since names are on the back of each page and not visible, we do not know whose poems we are reading… and that’s the way we want it. When the Directors have read them, the scores are added and the highest aggregate scores are removed; these are the finalists. This process takes a while to complete. The top poems are brought back to the scoring table and those we deem superior (about 25) are sent to the final judge… a renowned American poet with experience in judging national contests is hired each year by CWG.

We should note that we do have specific criteria for how to score the poems on the 0-5+ scale. They cover such points as originality of theme, vividness of imagery, musicality of language, correctness of grammar and syntax, understandability, richness of metaphor and excitement.

 6. Win A Subscription

This is a contest for critical readers (we use the term critical as in criticism, literarily speaking).


  1. Read a copy of our current issue (or any future issues)
  2. Write a critique of the issue
  3. We can handle the good and the bad but you do not have to go looking for either… write only what you believe
  4. Cite some specific pieces, if appropriate
  5. Between 1/2 and two typewritten double spaced pages should do it
  6. Give the review a title; put your name, address & tel. no. on it.
  7. Send it snail mail… CWG Review Dept., 4956 St. John Drive, Syracuse NY 13215

If we use all of your review on-line, we will give you a one year subscription to The Comstock Review. We use part of your review, we will give you a half year subscription.