Thank you yellowoftops for bringing a two-month old post to my attention. I appreciate your comments and those of rd95.
How do you improve your poetry if you don't compete in any some sort of way?
You improve your poetry, as rd95 implies below, by doing it, sharing it, living it.
Competing is fine if you do it for fun, but all judges (of all competitions from the Nobel Prize to the Oscars to the poetry slam down the street) have their own sets of biases drawn from their own educations and the professors whose words they hung on. Our biases lead us to like some things and reject other things. Is there an objective basis for choosing a winner? Is there a rubric?
I don't know.
I've been a judge in a literary competition. I've been on a hiring committee. The process is pretty much the same.