Monday, May 14, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
Welcome to "Where I Stand"--a poetry opinion column that will become a regular feature on Lime Tree unless I lose interest in it.
The topic of this installment of "Where I Stand" is literary contests. It appears that contests are one of the subjects about which people in the poetry world have strong opinions, or, perhaps more importantly, are expected to have strong opinions in regard thereof. Therefore I have formulated my own strong opinions on this matter.
As a matter of policy, I do not usually enter contests. By "a matter of policy," I mean that I am too lazy. I can barely manage to file my taxes and fill out my yearly faculty self-progress reports. Even entering my password on the 37 useless social software sites I have somehow become subscribed to saps me of most of my vital energy.
When I hear that other persons have won contests, my reaction is either cynical disdain (when I do not know or do not like the person), or warm approval (when I know and like the person). When I do not know or do not like the contest-winner, the contest is invariably a shallow careerist charade sponsored by venal and corrupt entities. When I know and like the winner, it is a richly deserved honor bestowed by astute judges.
Regarding entry fees: I cannot afford them. I assume that persons who can afford them are more privileged than me, and accordingly are probably inferior poets acting on bad faith. Exceptions: see above paragraph.
Just for the record, I won prizes in a small handful of contests in my youth. I think I won $100 one year in my annual junior college poetry competition for a short rhyming poem about blackbirds that was also somehow about the end of the world, and again the next year for a poem that took place in a graveyard but was really about a painful breakup. I also took honorable mention in the Modesto, CA branch of the League of American Penwomen's Bicentennial Writing Contest (held in 1976, obviously) with a poem titled "Freedom" (written, appropriately, in free verse). The poem no longer exists, but I seem to recall that it combined a handful of patriotic images (flag, etc.) with a few mildly ironic observations to the effect that things weren't really so free after all. There could very well have been a sad eagle in there somewhere.
In short, contests are good when they are won by poets I like, and they are bad when they are won by poets I do not like. If anyone should nominate me for a contest I do not have to pay anything for, and I win it, it is good. If I lose, it is bad. These are my strong opinions on contests.