Worcester County Poetry Association
Worcester County Poetry Association / PO Box 804, Worcester, MA 01613 / 508-797-4770 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The WCPA Annual Poetry Contest: The Frank O'Hara Prize
RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP
Wondering when your WCPA Membership expires?
Alice B. Fogel
Barbara Helfgott Hyett
FIRST PLACE WINNER
Helen Marie Casey
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
Clair Mowbray Golding
Peter Clement Davis
Leigh A. Emery
Kathleen L. Vincent
Christopher E. Phillips
The Worcester Review
Previous Contest Judges and First Place winners:
Dates shown in bold will link to photos and additional contest results.
Records prior to 1989 need to be compiled. If you would like to help with this work please email email@example.com.
ABOUT THE WCPA POETRY CONTEST
WCPA works hard to run a poetry contest that is fair and unbiased. We set out guidelines that apply to all the entrants and strive for impartial enforcement.
We choose a judge because his/her poetry is admired by the Contest Chair and the WCPA Board. We do try to select a judge from the New York/New England region because it makes it more likely that the judge will be available to attend the winners' reading in the fall.
We try to alternate between male and female judges each year. Some people think it makes a difference, but we haven't seen any particular gender-influenced pattern among the winning poems.
It's also hard to predict what poetic style or theme a judge will respond to. Good poets typically like good poetry of all types and we choose the judges because they are good poets. Their styles vary greatly from year to year, as do their selections.
Look for the contest judge's work in the library or online; we always provide book titles and web links with the contest announcement. But remember: the writer of sonnets may be a lover of ee cummings, the author of sestinas may admire the elegance and simplicity of a haiku. Submit your best work.
WCPA does not pre-screen or pre-select the submissions. The contest judge always sees all the eligible poems we receive. We have on occasion passed up the opportunity to engage a contest judge who insisted on choosing from only the "top" 20 or 30 poems. We don't know what the "top" poems are - that is why we pay for the judge's expertise.
The judge does not know which poet wrote which poem. This allows all WCPA members to participate in the contest, including board members and Worcester Review editors.
Worcester Review editors have absolutely no influence on the judging process.
The judge notifies the contest chair of the titles and numbers of the winning poems. The contest chair matches that information with the numbered cover pages, notifies the winners by phone or email, and forwards copies of the judge's selections, winning poems and cover pages to the Managing Editor of the Worcester Review.
The contest chair will then notify the WCPA board members, the Vice President for Publicity, and the webmaster. Contest results are mailed to any entrant who submitted a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope.)
Winning poems will appear in the next issue of The Worcester Review.
Each year we have a few poets who haven't followed the contest submission guidelines. Most of the time, it's an honest mistake. Sometimes, it's our fault because the guidelines are ambiguous. Once in a while, it looks like the poet didn't read the contest rules or chose to ignore them.
We're posting some of the common errors people make and some suggestions on how to avoid them in the future.
And we're including some suggestions about presenting your work to the world. These comments are true for the WCPA poetry contest and probably true for most contests, which brings us to our first suggestion:
READ THE CONTEST RULES CAREFULLY
Read the rules carefully when you decide to enter the contest and read them again before you send the poems to us. This is really important! Go to the contest guidelines.
Are you a current WCPA member? Do you live in Worcester County? Do you attend school in Worcester County? Do you work in Worcester County?
If your answer is yes to any of these questions, you are eligible to enter the contest.
If you're a WCPA member, you can enter the contest for free. This is one of your membership benefits. The contest deadline is often a helpful membership renewal reminder for people.
If you choose to become a WCPA member, you can submit your membership form and a check with the contest submission. You do not need to pay an additional submission fee.
For everyone else, the submission fee is $8. And everyone can submit up to 3 poems, members and non-members alike.
If you are not a current WCPA member or if you have not sent the submission fee, your submission will usually be discarded unless the fee is received before the poems go to the judge.
THE COVER SHEET
The cover sheet or cover letter should have your name, address, telephone number and/or email address. Make sure you have listed the titles of the poems you are submitting. One cover sheet for the entire submission is all that is required. Use white paper!
DON'T PUT YOUR NAME ON THE PAGE WITH THE POEM
When we get your submission, the cover sheet and the poems are numbered and logged, then we separate the cover sheet from the poems.
The contest judge gets the poems; we hold onto the cover page. This is so the judge doesn't know who wrote the poem and is less likely to be subconsciously influenced by a familiar name, the poet's gender, or that they once had a teacher they truly hated who also happened to be named Fred or Ethel.
PUT THE TITLE OF THE POEM ON THE PAGE WITH THE POEM
How are we supposed to know which poem is which?
Poems of several pages in length should be appropriately labeled. Page one of a poem entitled "Spring" will have the title in the normal location and (at the top or bottom of the page) the notation, page 1/5. On subsequent pages, the notation will read Spring, page 2/5, and so on.
We're very careful with numbering and logging the poems but we don't read them before they go to the judge; we just number the pages as you present them. If you send us a five-page poem and you folded them into the envelope out of order, we wouldn't know. And the judge might end up reading page 1, 4, 5, 2 and 3 - in that order.
FONTS AND FONT SIZE
No one will read your prize-winning poem if they have to get out the magnifying glass. Don't use anything smaller than 10 pt. Ever. We prefer 12 pt - it's easier on the eyes - but we know that dropping down to 11 pt or even 10 pt will make the poem look better on the page. That's fine. But look at your poem after you print it out. Give it to someone else to read: if they are squinting, your font is too small.
Stick with the basic fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, Courier. Remember that the judge will be reading a lot of poetry and three pages of Haettenschweller is going to get pretty annoying after a while.
There is no need to double-space your poem - unless that's the form you want it to have. We know that students are sometimes used to submitting work double-spaced and instructors have their own reasons for that requirement. But think about how the poem looks on the page, how you want it to be read. Double-spacing makes it tough to pick up the stanza breaks and often makes it difficult to read the poem in a natural manner.
CHECK YOUR SPELLING
Careless writing won't inspire careful reading. Check your spelling - and we don't mean by just using a spell-checker. Read your poem through after you print it. Spell-check is going to catch the words you misspell but it won't tell you when you've used the wrong word spelled correctly. It can help to have another person read your poem through. Use a dictionary! There are some great online dictionary sites like dictionary.com.
Please email us if you have any additional questions.
The Frank O'Hara Prize
In a ceremony held at The Worcester Art Museum on November 19, 2009, the Worcester County
Poetry Association annual poetry contest, established in 1973, was renamed the “The WCPA Annual Poetry Contest: The Frank O’Hara Prize“ in honor of central Massachusetts born poet Frank O’Hara, and in grateful recognition of The O’Hara Family for its support of the literary community.
American Poet Frank O’Hara (1926-1966) grew up in Grafton, Massachusetts, attended St. John’s High School in Worcester and studied piano at the New England Conservatory in Boston. After serving in the U.S. Navy during WWII, O’Hara returned to musical studies at Harvard through the GI Bill. His love of contemporary music and visual art led to an interest in poetry. Frank O’Hara graduated from Harvard in 1950 with a degree in English, attended graduate school at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and moved the New York where he found work at the Museum of Modern Art. O’Hara had known John Ashbery at Harvard and now joined Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and others in what became known as the New York School of poets. O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency (1956) and Lunch Poems (1964) reflect the inspiring energy and excitement of the New York art scene which included literary friends and artists such as Larry Rivers, Jackson Pollock, and Jasper Johns. O’Hara wrote essays and reviews for ArtNews, as well as writing for various Museum of Modern Art publications. Frank O’Hara died in an accident while vacationing on Fire Island.