“A human being is only breath and shadow.”
We’re looking beyond our typical hard focus on flash fiction and delving into a little poetry with our annual Shadow Award (you can check out last year’s contest winners here).
Despite this shift, this contest keeps in line with The Molotov Cocktail mission of providing a projectile for the dark and offbeat, for the strange and surreal. We want vivid language that surprises and astounds us, words that flow with a rhythm that drags us down to the murky depths or sends us floating up into the ether.
Poets we tend to like are: Edgar Allan Poe, Allen Ginsberg, Joyce Carol Oates, Federico García Lorca, Pablo Neruda, James Tate, Charles Simic, Amy Gerstler, Tomas Tranströmer, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Paul Celan, Joy Harjo, Anna Akhmatova, Tracy K. Smith, Octavio Paz, Anna Journey, Czeslaw Milosz, Andre Breton, Rita Dove, Johannes Bobrowski, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Gu Cheng, Yusef Komunyakaa, Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Sylvia Plath.
Don’t know their poetry? No sweat. They’re just jumping-off points. The possibilities for your poems are as boundless as the English language itself. Just keep them dark, offbeat, fantastic, or surreal and you’ll have a fighting chance.
Our associate editor, Mary Lenoir Bond, who holds an MFA in Poetry, will be primarily judging the contest, with the assist from yours truly. Here’s some advice about what she’s looking for:
- I enjoy free verse as much as anyone, but I also want to see some skill involved. Juxtaposition is a plus. I’d love to see some craft: use the magical tools of poetry. And this is Molotov, so it should be odd, have an edge. I don’t need a poem about your dog or cat, unless it eats people or can write a horror novel. Most of all, surprise me.
- I have to admit, I’m often allergic to overly rhymed poetry, especially end rhymes, but I also don’t mind being proven wrong. Unintentional or subtle rhymes, or even slant rhymes, are often preferred—unless you are using a very specific formal structure that requires artful rhyming.
- As the great poet Marvin Bell says, (and I’m paraphrasing): there’s no wrong way or right way to write a poem. There are, however, hundreds and hundreds of tools that can and should be utilized. Some poets have a real intuition for writing good poems, but even geniuses practice the craft regularly and incorporate skills. Bell also advises poets to “learn the rules of poetry, then break them, then make your own rules, and break those.” Experiment, play with form and meter. Read good poetry (poets.org is a great place to start, as well as your local library) and let that soak in as well as inspire you, then write and edit your own. Have fun. Be weird.
- Some tips. Just like in any good writing: always avoid clichés, show don’t tell, and ground emotions with solid, unique imagery and description.
- Combine the atmospheric elements from David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini films and your entry will likely rise to the top.
The top three entries will win cold, hard cash:
$200 for the Shadow Award winner
$100 for 2nd place
$50 for 3rd place
We also give mad props to 4th-10th place, publishing them as Honorable Mentions in our Shadow Awards mega-issue and also in our next print anthology, due out in the fall!
Follow these guidelines, and you could have some extra coin in your pocket, and some bragging rights as 2017 Shadow Award winner.
– Epic poems are best left to the masters. All poems must absolutely be no more than one page in length, but you may enter 1-3 poems per submission.
– All contest submissions will be read blind, so we won’t be playing favorites. Sorry, Mom.
– All poems must be submitted via Word document attachment (we want to preserve your formatting, yo!). One poem per page, maximum 3 pages/poems per entry. Do not list your name anywhere in your submission or we’ll assume that you don’t know how to read.
– Early bird rate is $6 to enter (1-3 poems per submission) and runs until May 15th, 2017. At that time, the regular submission rate of $7 (for 1-3 poems) will begin and run through our official deadline. Sorry, no refunds.
– We reserve the right to extend deadlines if necessary (and you can probably expect our several-day Procrastinator’s Special–with corresponding increase in submission fee so it’s still fair and all).
– Submissions must be previously unpublished work, and upon acceptance we only obtain one-time electronic rights and one-time print rights for our anthology. You will retain copyright (duh). By submitting to this contest, you are agreeing to these terms.
– No limit on how many entries you can submit, but each entry is limited to 1-3 poems. Each poem will be considered on its individual merits, so one multi-poem entry could yield more than one spot in our Top 10.
– Entries are accepted until 11:59pm (PST) June 30th, 2017. Winners announced by July 14th, and we’ll unleash the Shadow Awards prize-winners mega-issue shortly thereafter.
– And, most importantly, this is a poetry contest, therefore your entries must be poems. However, we are more than happy to consider prose poetry as long as it emphasizes vivid imagery and and isn’t simply a flash fiction piece. Language is more important to us than form in this contest. Remember, poetry is a condensed form of prose, so surprise us with language and you’ll be on the right track.
So that means you can go all…