Invitation: R. S. V. P. by Fred Wilbur

Photo of leaves on ground
Photo by Fred Wilbur


Submissions for the annual Streetlight Magazine Poetry Award are open and I want to encourage participation from everyone, those new to our magazine as well as regular readers. The closing date for this year is 29 November, just a few weeks away. The rewards are recognition by the posting of the winning entries in our magazine and print anthology, and monetary prizes of $125, $75, and $50.

In past blogs, I have advised writers, especially poets, to be realistic in their desire for recognition, but I want to promote here our poet-friendly process for this contest. I don’t particularly like the word ‘contest’ though, of course, that is what this process is. I think any contest carries a negative nuance as it implies aggressive competition (especially in these partisan times), where one poem has to slay the multitudes like a comic book superhero.

Our process is more humane.

First, Sharon Ackerman, my co-editor, and myself are not academics in the sense that we do not teach in MFA programs and therefore have no axes to grind in competition with colleagues, no reputations to defend. We are both experienced writers of poetry, however, experiencing the same angst, rejection, and self-doubt as many poets.

Second, we don’t use screeners. We read every entry separately before consultations with each other. I have been a screener for a national contest and know the hurried and often superficial decision-making necessary to complete the work on time.

Third, Sharon and I discuss the compelling aspects of a poem as well as the weaknesses when compared to other entries. Although the selection process is anonymous, we try to hear the voice of the poet and thereby have an inkling of the poet’s experience and sensitivity writing poetry.

Last, we honor a number of poets by publishing the three place prizes AND the six finalists or Honorable Mentions. All entries are considered for general publication.

The care we bring to this competition is an effort to counter the ‘shot-in-the-dark’ or lottery mindset many participants have, but against the odds still have confidence in their work. We want those submitting but who may not place to read our choices and admit that we picked poems they wish they had written themselves.

Frederick Wilbur
Frederick Wilbur received his BA from the University of Virginia and an MA from the University of Vermont. He has authored three books on architectural and decorative woodcarving. His two poetry collections are As Pus Floats the Splinter Out and Conjugation of Perhaps. His work has appeared in many print and on-line reviews including Shenandoah, The Atlanta Review, The Comstock Review, The Dalhousie Review, Rise Up Review, and Mojave River Review. He was awarded the Stephen Meats Award by Midwest Quarterly (2017).

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