You will surely love the (possibly entirely apocryphal – or he himself might have told it) brilliant story about Professor Paul Muldoon returning to Norn Iron to judge a poetry competition. Paul decides, among reliable reams of epic and lyric, streams of Spenserian sonnets, vast vats of villanelles, buckets of blank verse and at least one hillock with a pastoral, that a single young bright kid actually won the competition outright with his poem called: ‘The Tortoise’, a short poem with the central image of a struggling Tortoise, with the magical line:
“the tortoise goes.. movey movey”
Cue, near riotous uproar among the adult educated intellect of assembled applicants if true. And I really want that story to be true. The story of a renowned poet who refused to crush a child’s sense of wonder and possibility, and not appease convention. I won second prize as an 11 year old with my poem, ‘Peace’ with the opening line: ‘Peace is but a flower among the weeds’ back in the dark 1970s, yes… but it was all downhill after that first line although in truth it was all my own work, almost winning up against other kids and their ambitious mammies work.
The poetry society in the UK, of which Chris Meade (RIP) was once director have opened their national poetry competition to everyone. If that’s your thing the application is here.
At 12, an entire school copybook full of my very first story ‘Frosty the Snowman’ prompted my primary school teacher to tell me I could possibly be a writer ‘WHEN I GREW UP’ This was actually the first of many times I heard that said, sometimes as an If rather than When statement…
At 17, the local newspaper editors typed reply to my rejected poem submission simply said: “These are unsuitable sentiments for a 17 year old.” Among the 40 plus poems within the creative sections of my Doctoral thesis lies one called ‘unsuitable sentiments’ It appears under the pseudonym of the imaginary Achill based poet John Pat McNamara. Yes let the sun shine upon us for I remain alive, and inspired by the muses.
I utterly abandoned poetry competitions, although I previously wrote funny verse (as opposed to what I consider actual or authentic poetry) about poetry competitions in the past, it got about 20,000 page views on my previous, spammed to death, old Drupel version of this website. (Which you may now notice has new SSL technology protecting you, with new back-up infrastructure behind it protecting me). The first post on that old banjaxed version was around 2006 and was a piece about a lack of a muse for technology… doah… and since I was working on my cameltext.net ludic poems then, why can’t technology be spiritual in that traditional sort of (non)sense ?
Anyway just like my friend Professor Leo Flores now former president of the ELO, I love epoetry, while still loving much traditional poetry. I enjoy creating and making poetry, enjoy reading it, learning about it, experimenting with all aspects of it, primarily as a philosophical, spiritual and textual exercise, an exploration of otherness, subconsciousness, technical mastery, as process that provides beginnings, foundations, filaments, fodder that frequently feeds other forms of writing.
And in the very same vein in which I understand and accept I will never win an All Ireland medal of any description, a seat in Dail Eireann nor any popularity contest on social media, I am certain I will never judge nor win a poetry competition, despite writing literally thousands of poems in the intervening forty years from that terse rejection, I haven’t entered any competitions since I was that rejected 17 year old would be Poet.
The very idea that there is a winning poem among thousands of potential personal already winning poems, for surely as a poet you win if you really believe you have successfully made or completed a true poem, faithfully expressed and finished it, rather than simply abandoning it as done. And if you are prepared to risk actually putting it into public view then it surely is a winner, of some sort, at least to you.
Poets may be the charlie sheen of writers, making it makes it so, the work is done, the juvenilia, silly sentimental satires, structured poetic effluent, true luminescence, and utter versified rubbish, short shape shrapnel, is it all or any of those things ? remains a creative and artistic if not human personal judgement, you have made a thing of which you are rightly proud and therefore you win. Who is the loser in that situation other than people who have no actual industrial or electrical machinery in sight or even in storage and yet specialize in charging you and others for the wisdom of their workshops in which you do the actual work ?
The concept of a winning poem reinforces hierarchical elitist thinking of twenty centuries ago . Unless it’s been written by Vogons, I’m up for reading it and making each one of them the winner, tradition, individual talents, or just a mates mate from her wife’s golf club, the cruel truth is a poet only really wins when… death decides.
So specifically for those amateur critics and poets whose magnum opus will be an overpriced lump of Ice cream on a stick, below is yet another one of my own personal winning poems. I awarded it the ultimate 0 Prize, since that logically comes before one in a descending numerical value sequence.. as yet A.I. can’t really handle ‘nothing’.
I have wanted to write this poem for a long time, inspired to do a bit more research, finally did today during a rare completely quite three hour period, to paraphrase a Kenny Everett Character… but am telling ya the plot…
(ab)normal screenwriting and digital service will resume in due course.