How famous is Cardiff? We like to think the world now knows just who we are. Capital of Wales, Millennium Stadium, Singer of the World, and an iconic poem across the front of the WMC. That’s quite a fair step on from Clark’s pies and coal in the streets. But you try it in California or Texas or even, for that matter, some parts of Europe. Cardiff? Never heard of that place. There’s still a way to go.
In Swansea, which ought to have an even larger problem given that they are half the capital’s size and merely the country’s second city things are managed with less desperation. Wales’ tallest building is already in place and the Dylan Thomas Prize, £40K for the best book in English by someone under 30, brings the world to their doors. Around the world Dylan’s name still works.
But back in the Capital all is not lost. The annual Academi Cardiff International Poetry Competition, £5000 for a single poem of less than 40 lines has just been awarded. Aboard one of the glass-topped Bay cruisers, laden this time with orange juice, poets and glasses of wine, Jane Routh walked away with the big cheque. National Poet Gillian Clarke presided, told us of her childhood sneaking down the Ely subway and walking along the Castle’s animal wall. Read us poems about Obama and the Stadium. Pulled Cardiff and verse closely together.
The Cardiff International Poetry Competition, backed by the Council is in its twenty-fifth year now. As a money prize it ranks around third in the UK and attracts a huge entry from all over the world. Bards on Honolulu and Cape Town send in their stuff. So, too, do poets from Ponty and Ely and Roath. The big selling point with such contests is that nobody’s name is revealed until the judging is done. Work gets read for its quality rather than by whom it might have be written. It’s an appealing prospect, especially to those who are convinced that publishing is entirely run as a conspiracy by a self-selecting elite. Poetry Competitions are equitable, straightforward, fair.
The 2010 competition is to be judged by the new editor of Poetry Wales, Zoë Skoulding and the woman who was running right behind Carol Ann Duffy in the race for the Poet Laureate, Jackie Kay. Entering costs £6 a poem with entry forms available from the Academi. Check online at www.academi.org or send an sae to P.O. Box 438, Cardiff CF10 5YA, Closing date is 29th January, 2010 which gives loads of time but early entries have an excellent chance.
Tips on winning? Read as much poetry as you can. Read the work of the judges. Send your best. Try sending in more than one example. Hope.
A version of this post appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail of 8th August, 2009.