How to Submit a Poem to a Poetry Contest
(or a Print Publication)
Some of the things we think are simplest stump us when it's time for action. We write a great poem, choose a perfect contest or print publication for it, and suddenly realize we have no idea how a submitted page should look.
If you're curious as to the "correct" way to prepare an entry or submission, the examples below are standard and will be correct in most circumstances. If poetry contests make specific requests regarding the format of submissions, their requests always over-ride any advice given here.
Most poetry contests will not want your name and address on the same page as the poem—whereas print publications will want your name and address on the same page as each poem—but the other guidelines below still apply.
Because Utmost Christian Writers is mandated to encourage and support Christian poets, we try not to be critical of poets who fail to follow our technical advice. Your work will never be disqualified because it doesn't "look right" to us. But we encourage all poets to be as professional as possible.
For a Single Page Poem
If your poem fits entirely on a single page of paper, here's how to set it up.
Do: Use standard white 16, 20 or 24 pound paper.
Do: Leave at least one inch of border around any text, including your name and address.
Do: Be sure to have your real name and address at the top left of the page. (Phone number is optional unless requested.)
Do: Indent the text of your poem to set it apart from your name.
Do: Center your title or align it with the left edge of your poem, whichever you choose.
Do: Use a common easy-to-read font like Courier, Ariel, Helvetica, Times (Roman) in sizes 10 to 14. (Your text should look the same size to the editor as it would look in a book. If you're not sure, open a book and compare your manuscript to it.)
Do: Underline the words that are to be italicized. (Recently, it has also become acceptable to use italics if you prefer.)
Do: Make sure there are no spelling errors or visible corrections on the page.
Do Not: Use bold text.
Do Not: Center the lines of your poem unless it is demanded by the structure of your poem. (There must be a reason why your poem is centered. "Because I like to center my poems," is not a sufficient reason.)
You may: Include the number of lines at the very top of the page, although it is not necessary.
Remember: You want the editor to have an uninterrupted reading of your poem. Don't use devices (weird fonts, bold lettering, colored paper) that will interfere with a proper evaluation of your poetry.
All of these guidelines also apply to submitting your poem to a contest except in most cases your name and address must not appear on the page.
Here's how your poem will look if you are submitting it to a print publication. If it's being submitted to a contest, the name and address must usually be left off.
A Poem on Multiple Pages
If your poem is long enough that it requires two or more pages, the second page (and subsequent pages) have a portion of the poem's title and your name in the top left corner, as well as the page number.
Here is how the second page will look (as well as the third, fourth, etc).
Other Dos and Don'ts
Don't center your poem on the page unless there's a reason for it.
Don't Use Large or Fancy Fonts
Large or fancy fonts may look nice to you, but they will not impress an editor or a poetry judge. In fact, they are so distracting that your work may not get a fair consideration.