Long Poem Prize 36-line Rule

The 36-Line Rule is meant to help entrants prepare submissions composed of single long poems or cycles of poems that, if chosen as one of two winners in The Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize, will meet the contest’s requirement that the published poem fill no less than 10 printed pages and no more than 20. This length requirement, that is, refers to printed pages as they appear in The Malahat Review — not to typescript or manuscript pages — since no poem published in The Malahat Review ever exceeds 36 lines per page.

A 10-page entry, when printed, is, at its maximum length, 360 lines long, including all spaces (as in examples B and C below).

A 20-page entry, when printed, is, at its maximum length, 720 lines long, including all spaces (as in examples B and C below).

The count of 36 lines per page used to arrive at these minimum and maximum page requirements includes any spaces between lines and stanzas, or before and after part or section numbers, or part titles. All such spaces, whether or not they are marked by subtitles, numbers, or symbols of any sort (e.g., an asterisk), are to be counted as lines. Thus, example A below contains 5 lines; example B, 7; example C, 12:

Example A
Line 1. Hickory dickory dock.
Line 2. The mouse ran up the clock,
Line 3. The clock struck one,
Line 4. The mouse ran down.
Line 5. Hickory dickory dock.

Example B
Line 1. Hickory dickory dock.
Line 2.           *
Line 3. The mouse ran up the clock,
Line 4. The clock struck one,
Line 5. The mouse ran down.
Line 6.           *
Line 7. Hickory dickory dock.

Example C
Line 1.            I
Line 2. Hickory dickory dock.
Line 3.
Line 4.           II
Line 5.
Line 6. The mouse ran up the clock,
Line 7. The clock struck one,
Line 8. The mouse ran down.
Line 9.
Line 10.          III
Line 11.
Line 12. Hickory dickory dock.

The main guideline stipulates “no more than 36 lines per printed page” for any and all published poems, because in a cycle of poems, where each poem starts on a new page, or in a multi-part poem, where each part starts on a new page, there may be pages where not all 36 lines are used. Some individual poems and some parts may be more than one page (36 lines) long, for example, with last pages that may not require all 36 lines. Any lines that are not used on the final page of any individual poem or part must be deducted from the maximum entry length of 720 lines so that the published poem will not exceed 20 printed pages.

Page breaks in individual poems or in parts should fall at appropriate points to facilitate readability. For example, if a poem or part thereof is 38 lines long, it might best be broken around lines 30 to 32, depending on the syntax and lineation, with the remaining 8 to 6 lines appearing on the next page. Please remember that in a cycle of poems, each poem must begin on a new page. In contrast, in a multi-part poem, the author may choose whether or not each section begins on a new page.

Entries should be formatted as portrait pages only and observe the above requirements. The Malahat Review can accommodate most lines horizontally without having to break them. If, however, a line is so long that it must be broken to fit on the page, it must therefore be counted as two lines. Although the magazine sometimes uses “landscape” (rather than “portrait”) layout to accommodate poems with long lines, such a layout necessarily entails fewer lines per page and cannot be used for works of the length required in the Long Poem Contest.

To guarantee accuracy, determine how many lines per page your manuscript is, including stanza breaks, etc. For example, if each page in your manuscript is 46 lines long, your entry must be at minimum almost 8 manuscript pages long (360 lines divided by 46 lines = 7.82) and at maximum 15 and a half manuscript pages long (720 lines divided by 46 lines = 15.65).

If you have questions about meeting this guideline, please send queries to malahat@uvic.ca.

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