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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
Phone poetry contest launched

Text poems must be no more than 160 characters long
The Guardian newspaper has launched a poetry competition for mobile phone users.

The submitted poems have to be written as a text message and sent in via a mobile phone for adjudication.

This is a new literary form and it must be left to define its own parameters

Victor Keegan, Guardian
The winning entry will receive 1,000 as a prize.

The text message format puts a limit of 160 characters on the poem, which the organisers hope will test the ingenuity and creativity of the poets.

The submitted poem can be in plain English or in the shorthand English favoured by many text message enthusiasts.

'Interactive feature'

Guardian journalist Victor Keegan told BBC News Online: "A text message poem gives you total freedom.

"There is a lot of scope for the poets."

Writing in the Online section of the Guardian, he said: "It is the first competition of its kind with a special interactive feature."

The final short list of seven poems will be sent to all participants via their mobile phones to acts as judges.

Mr Keegan added: "This is a new literary form and it must be left to define its own parameters.

"In this competition the medium really is the message."

Text messaging has become one of the most popular forms of communication in the last few years.

Billion messages

Almost a billion mobile phone text messages are sent every month, according to the latest industry figures, generating 100m a month for the phone companies.

Sixty percent of text messages are sent by teenagers.

Mr Keegan said: "Text messages allow you to communicate in a short time, without having the burden of making a phone call.

"It is personal but impersonal."

Text messages have been put to a range of different uses in the last 12 months.

A text message sent from Bali to England helped save 14 tourists stranded in a boat, while smokers hoping to quit can be sent messages encouraging them to fight the nicotine cravings.

Obscene messages

Last year at the Edinburgh fringe festival theatre goers could follow a play via messages on their phone and earlier this year MTV UK launched a service to allow viewers to choose videos via messages on their phones.

But text messages have also fallen foul of the law.

A farm worker in Scotland was fined 100 for sending obscene mobile phone text messages to a man he accused of wrecking his marriage.

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