Home > Interviews > Poetry and Pageants: An Interview with Poetry Contest Judge Kayla Czaga

KaylaCzagaWith PRISM international’s Poetry Contest nine days away, we thought we’d get Poetry Contest Judge Kayla Czaga to share her insights on poetry, but with a twist.* We’ve slotted in the word “poetry” into these questions posed to former pageant contestants. Click here to check out our contest guidelines and to compete towards becoming PRISM’s Next Top Poet.

Do you have any previous poetry experience?

All experience is poetry experience.

What has poetry done for you?

It’s made it really hard to move because I have several hundred pounds of books I have to lug from apartment to apartment. And I keep having to move because poetry isn’t one of those pursuits that earns very much money. Beer? There’s a lot of beer in poetry. And it has definitely improved my signature.

What do you expect to gain by competing in poetry?

Several months of anxious waiting and then nothing.

What advice would you give to a friend entering a Poetry Competition?

I find it helpful to have a friend, one who knows my work well, help me select which poems to send in. Don’t write poems based on what you think the judge is into.

Is cosmetic surgery an unfair advantage in poetry competition? Why or why not?

Judging is “blind.”

Do you feel participating in poetry teaches one determination and responsibility?

Yes, and no.

What personal sacrifices have you made so far in preparing for poetry?

I live with constant dread of meeting anyone and hearing them ask, “So what do you do?”

How would you respond to the statement: poetry exploits women?

For 400 years poetry was just men trying to convince women to sleep with them by comparing them to animals and inanimate objects. Since then things have gotten a bit better, but it still seems harder for female poets to be published, reviewed, and taken seriously as leaders in their art.

If you were judging poetry, what would be the most important quality that you’d look for in a winner?

I am judging poetry. My verdict will depend solely on whether I read the poem before or after coffee.

How has your husband helped you prepare for competition?

He places my competing poems in pink scented envelopes and carries them to the post office on my behalf while I drink coffee.


Kayla Czaga grew up in Kitimat and now lives in Vancouver, BC, where she recently earned her MFA in Creative Writing at UBC. Her poetry, non-fiction and fiction has been published in The Walrus, Best Canadian Poetry 2013, Room Magazine, Event and The Antigonish Review, among others. For Your Safety Please Hold On is her first book.

*This interview is intended as a humorous and thought-provoking response to pageantry questions as applied to poetry contests. The answers provided here do not represent PRISM international’s official judging process, nor any official guidelines from UBC’s Creative Writing Department. PRISM and UBC’s Creative Writing Department are committed to a fair process and to upholding UBC’s Policy on Discrimination and Harassment. The judging process is blind, and the Poetry Contest Judge is committed to reading and considering all submissions.