Here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions

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  • Who can be a member of CFCP?
The California Federation of Chaparral Poets, Inc. is a non-profit educational organization with membership open to anyone who supports its aims and objectives. Members are encouraged to join a chapter in their area, to foster the fellowship of poets, to encourage the development of their writing skills, and to provide a supportive environment for personal and professional growth.

There are both adult and junior membership categories.

You may download a membership form, print out a copy, fill it out and mail it in.

  • What is CFCP and what support does it give its members?
Composed of nearly 20 chapters spanning the state, CFCP is the oldest and largest poetry organization in California. CFCP seeks opportunities for the reading, writing, critiquing, and appreciation of poetry. To address these goals CFCP has adopted the following statements of purpose:

• to further education in the teaching and writing of poetry by children with our annual Children’s Poetry Fair; for youth with our yearly statewide contest; for adults with workshops, open competitions and local Chapters of CFCP.

• to increase appreciation of poetry through all channels, including schools, media, and public gatherings.

• to promote fellowship among poets through the annual CFCP State Convention and periodical newsletter
  • What do I get for joining?
This answer has not yet been approved for posting. Watch for frequent updates.
  • How do I go about forming a new chapter of CFCP?
CFCP recommends two possible procedures in organizing a local chapter, depending upon your circumstances.

The first is to hold an informational meeting among a group of already-interested people; maybe invite a few CFCP members from a nearby chapter (or members of the state board) to be present, and just talk about forming a new chapter, etc. That often works in places where poets are already interested in meeting together.

The other is to hold an open, public meeting, usually with a "reading program" as the draw, and then use the ending portion of the program to talk about CFCP and some of its outreach efforts.

State and/or local CFCP members will be glad to assist in this. That help could take the form of presenting a program of poetry, perhaps three people each reading 10 or 15 minutes, followed by time for Q & A, etc. Or, it could be a workshop on some aspect of writing poetry (although that might be more appropriate for a later session), or if you think there's enough local interest, you might try inviting people in to share their own work with each other.

Here are some suggestions that may help you in your planning.

1. First the big item: what exactly do you want to tell your community ahead of time? How do you want them to think about this meeting beforehand?
  • Is it to be a poetry reading, featuring board members of CFCP or other out of the area members? (if so, you’ll need to confirm dates and commitments with them ahead of time!)
  • Or maybe it's a totally informal event where anyone who enjoys "reading, writing, or appreciating" poetry can come to share with each other and find out more about how to organize a group. You could even do a "workshop" if you wanted to take the meeting in that direction...
  • Or maybe it's somewhere in between the two....

2. Where is it going to be held? Be sure that the space you use is large enough to hold 30 to 50 people, and that it is perceived as a public place to which most of the community would feel welcome. Will there be some sort of PA system, or is the meeting space intimate and quiet enough that voice amplification is unnecessary?

Sometimes libraries, coffee houses, art galleries, or bookstores will provide free meeting space for a community-wide poetry reading.

3. Is there any way for you to find a local teacher or some other professional who already writes poetry, to assist you? Or might that become too unpredictable and uncontrollable? Perhaps he/she could arrange for you to use a classroom ...

4. What is the name/title of this event? Sometimes a clever name helps to draw people.

5. What time will it be held? Is it to be an afternoon or evening event? What day of the week are you thinking about?

Weeknights are questionable, unless it starts at 7:30; both Saturday afternoons and evenings are all right. Perhaps 2 to 4 on Sunday afternoon would be acceptable.

6. Announcements should be posted approximately 2 weeks in advance of the meeting, in order for people to have time to plan their schedules, but not so far ahead that they forget it.

7. Local newspapers will probably run an announcement for you, but you will need to follow their guidelines. Some require three weeks advance notice, and will probably re-write your message, but many smaller community papers are more cooperative. Once you have your "pitch" composed, you should try asking them to run it.

8. Get flyers created as soon as possible...and posted in public places, including the schools and libraries.

9. Have you been thinking of a name for the group, or do you prefer that it be something that evolves out of group discussions?

10. What about coffee/punch/cookies/decorations, etc? Or just "straight" poetry?

11. CFCP can provide some state materials. You can request free copies of a membership brochure; we can also sometimes provide sample copies of the last year's awards booklets, etc.

12. For more information, or if you need assistance in establishing a new chapter in your area, please contact

  • Do I have to be a member to enter the contests?
No, you do not need to be a member. However, in some contests, the entry fees are less for members than for non-members. Also, membership includes the newsletter and other means of communication, which sometimes helps one to understand better what kinds of poems might stand the best chance of winning.
  • Can I send a class set of poems to the student contests?
This answer has not yet been approved for posting. Watch for frequent updates.
  • How do I get my students started on writing poetry?
This answer has not yet been approved for posting. Watch for frequent updates.
  • Where do I get an idea?
This answer has not yet been approved for posting. Watch for frequent updates.
  • How do I know if my poem is any good?
This answer has not yet been approved for posting. Watch for frequent updates.
  • How do judges choose the winning poems?
This answer is taken from an article written by Ursula T. Gibson, editor of Poetic Voices, an online monthly magazine.

One of the things I am learning as an editor is to be selective about what gets into Poetic Voices magazine. I had a total of 210 poems submitted for the May 2003 issue. Only 20 of them were selected for publication because, in my opinion, some of the poems just weren't up to any reasonable standard of craftsmanship, content or skill in conveying ideas or "condensed emotions."

Clichés like "dove/above/love," "blue skies," "lost love," etc., abound. Sometimes clichés are fine if the material around them is fresh and insightful. I'll put up with some grammatical or spelling errors, writing about them to the author and getting permission to use my Editorial License to fix them, like "it's" when "its" is intended, or "your" when "you're" is wanted, and all the all-too-common others. But most of the time, I have to use the Editor's Three Rules: "So What?," "Why?" and "Huh?"

So What?
Why should I care? Is this poem so personal that I can't recognize the human condition applicable to us all, or so self-centered without insight that I can't sympathize with the problem/position exposed? Is the subject one that other people (my readers) would enjoy/be affected by? Is it a subject that needs airing, no matter what "popular opinion" of the times might be? If I answer negatively to the questions that apply to it, the poem is a reject.

Why did the author use that word or that form; why did the author frame the poem this way? If a formal poetic form was used, like haiku, senryu, cinquain, ballad, and so on, has the author been strict about compliance with the "rules" of that form? Why is this form or line break necessary to the poem? If the poem is words strung down the page, is there a cogent reason for that form for this poem, or is it just a matter of misunderstanding what lines, line endings, and line breaks do?

Are line endings and line breaks occurring at "natural" places for emphasis or breath? Are poetic devices (metaphor, simile, alliteration, personification or any of the others) used that heighten the impression of the poem? Is there sound to the poem - that is, when I read it aloud, do the words ring? If not, why not? Is punctuation used to be helpful to the reader? Is punctuation lacking altogether? If so, why? (e e cummings syndrome - he was not always right.) What does it add to the poem to be bare of such assistance to the reader? Why are the "verses" or "stanzas" in this order? Is there a flow to the concepts that the author has chosen to present? Why was this poem written? If I answer negatively or cannot discern or satisfy myself as to the answers to these questions, the poem is a reject.

What is this poet saying or trying to say? Is the writing babble down the page? Is the argument of the poem comprehensible? Does the form of the poem assist the argument of the poem? Is it a one-subject poem carried to its limits, or are many subjects thrown together in a hodgepodge? Does the poem lead to its own ending? Does every word count in persuading the reader that truth is being told or revealed? Is the poem emotionally and reasonably balanced and logical? (I don't mean: is a rant tame and ordinary. I do mean, is the emotional content of the poem valid and consistent?) Do the characters of the poem behave as people would under similar circumstances? Is the logic of the poem - from verse to verse, stanza to stanza, line to line — intact? If I answer negatively to these questions, the poem is a reject.

As a consequence of using these guidelines, I read every poem at least three times. Once when it arrives, to catch typos or grammar problems and discuss those with the author. Then, when I work on an issue's submissions, once silently to apply the foregoing Editor's Rules, and once or twice aloud to "hear" the poem during that process. The attempt to be fair to each poem submitted is time-consuming and spread over a period of more than two weeks. And when, as in June 2003, I had 153 poems to read, I'm occupied for many days giving each poem its fair time and attention.

Obviously, these guidelines are not perfect, but they serve to keep my opinionated self at bay (though not entirely subdued). We don't get Robinson Jeffers sending poems to us, but the possibility exists that the next "Great American Poet" is sending us examples of his work. I think it is the editor's job to remain receptive to the attempt at creation and to try to encourage those who show the vital comprehensions of how poetry differs from prose, and who have something to say within its powers to do so.

Ursula T. Gibson, poetry editor

This article first appeared February 2000 in Poetic Voices, an online magazine. Used with permission.
Revised for April 2003 CFCP, Inc., Convention Roundtable
  • What do I do with my poem once it is written?
This answer has not yet been approved for posting. Watch for frequent updates.
  • What can I do to promote/support poetry in general and National Poetry Month in particular in my community?
This answer has not yet been approved for posting. Watch for frequent updates.
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