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Monday, March 11, 2013

Contests: or why writing under pressure is not for me.

Limerick, Ireland, which is:
 completely different thing then a poem.
Lovely place, you should go...

When I was first married, many decades ago, one of the tasks I accomplished, every morning was:
1. Make one lunch for my husband to take to work
2. Write one limerick to put in said husband's lunch

Similar to, but not the bag lunch
None of these limericks have survived. Which is probably a good thing as I am sure almost all of them started with: "There once was a girl in Lake Forest…"*

This brings me to today’s real topic. Poetry.

April is poetry month, for those of you that were not aware. This means, suddenly, or at least suddenly to me, there are an abundance of “contests” to write a poem for a prize or to be included in a poetry magazine’s publication or something. The contest organizers hope their "carrot" will inspire us (read: me, because that is who they are talking to, right?)  to submit an entry.

Completely different kind competition,
one I will never enter..
For many years now, when I think of something I want to write as a poem:

A. It is never anywhere near April.
B. When I put the words on paper, they stay there and wait, while I think about "it".  Rearrange them in my head, on paper, on the computer or backs of gum wrappers (this has actually happened. Gum wrappers are just not big enough).

Which leads to:
C. I never finish the poem by the deadline. Sigh.

Sometimes I can hear the poem, but when I write the poem, it does not sound like what I heard. Very frustrating. Sometimes, the whole poem comes in a flood and I cannot get the words down fast enough or worse yet, the poem arrives at a moment when writing it down is impossible.

Mistakenly, I have thought “I will remember". This is not true. This is delusional.  Finding an oasis in the Sahara dessert is more likely. For all practical purposes, that poem is gone.

When I have gotten it together and submitted poems I have found:
1. There is a submission fee. I get that.
2. Often it requires one to subscribe to the hosting magazine. I get that too.
3. In order to find out if one has won, one must send a SASE. I almost get that.
4. The poem has to be about something not even remotely of interest. I have found this typically means a large prize is the "carrot" ARGH! (I do not know what to write about sand removal form the Indian Coast to other coasts…Please do not take this to mean I do not care about this topic, just never thought it inspirational enough to write a poem about it.)

I have found success twice:

1. Second place:  the prize: a subscription to the magazine (I had subscribed when submitting the poem)
2. First place: the prize: $10 and a subscription to the magazine (you guessed it, I had subscribed when I submitted the poem)

I have to say, while competition is not something I usually go in for, it does get me to write. I am not even sure why. None-the-less, right now, I am working on a March 18 deadline, for a love poem contest.

I will keep you posted.

* there is a story behind why I no longer make his lunch or write him limericks, but that will have to be another day…

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