Friday, August 17, 2012

No More Contest Result Blues for me

Just to be clear.  I have not won a book contest.  This post is about why I won't be entering book contests for a very long time.

I won't be entering my manuscripts in contests this academic year, and quite possibly for a very long time after that.  Does that make me evil?  Does that make me a bad person?  Does that make me come off as somebody who thinks his shit doesn't stink or someone who thinks his poetry is just too *something* the presses won't get?  I don't know.  So for those who are able to write enough poems every year to always have a manuscript in play in the contest circuit, I am dropping out---not that any of you looked at me or my manuscripts as a threat.

I am not submitting my completed manuscript and I am not submitting my near completed manuscript to any book contests this year for some very obvious and some not so obvious reasons.  Here are a few I feel okay sharing with you.

1.  I have already sent my completed manuscript, Sailing This Nameless Ship, to every contest I care to send it to, and having been soundly rejected every time without so much as a comment or reaching a single "semi-finalist" (let alone finalist) benchmark, I have come to the conclusion that yes, I am writing poetry nobody wants to commit to at the book level.  Is it really bad poetry, or is it a matter of taste?  I would like to think it's a matter of taste, but I have to accept I am simply not that good of a poet.  So for now, and for a long time to come, Sailing This Nameless Ship is off the market.

2.  I do not have Life-supporter's Guilt.  I buy plenty of books, and have on at least three occasions, bought a press's entire catalog of chapbooks.  I do not feel a single stab of guilt or remorse when presses take time out of their day to tell me about how they are on the brink of disaster.  Want to read about disaster?  Go read about Foothills Publishing.  Michael Czarnecki's house burned down, with his entire inventory and a lifetime of private journals.  If I like your books, I will buy them.  I am just not really that enthusiastic to support your press via contests I have absolutely no chance of winning.

3.  I have absolutely no chance of winning 99% of the contests being conducted in the poetry world.  I don't write the kind of poetry which book contests want.  Presses who run book contests are looking for poets and poetry which will elevate them in status.  Contests want poetry and poets who are edgy, insinuate themselves into the conversation.  I am fine with the background.  My poetry is quiet for the most part, stays on the surface, doesn't play well with the established arc of contemporary poetry.  No, I am not claiming to be an innovator or some misunderstood genius. For the record, I am a competent poet at best.  I stand on the shoulders of giants, and if I get credit for anything, it might be in my choice of whose shoulders I stand upon to create my poetry.  I hear the word 'shallow' a lot, but I really don't care because it's really the only way I know how to write my poems, and I am fine with that.

4.  I don't feel like participating in the whole Reader Screen---Judge Round---Ranking euphoria contests support.  Did I make the cut?  Did my manuscript make it to the semi-finalist list?  How long will it take to hear about the Finalist list?  Is the rumor true---will they be publishing a second manuscript off the list?  Let's face it.  There is a weird vibe with poets.  We have a difficult time knowing our friends are our competition in some ways, and book contests have that in spades.  I can't count how many times I've had cryptic conversations where poets I know have been trying to find out whether I have sent a manuscript to this place or that, or have been trying to somehow keep me from learning about a certain contest.  I am already a little bit too manic when it comes to this I am just better off not asking all of the other questions which comes after those I just listed, the biggest being, Why didn't I get at least a mention on the semi-finalist list?

I'm finished for a while.  I want to give my new manuscript the opportunity to breath a while on its own and give it a chance to go through open submissions and rejections.  And here you thought I was going to talk about contest fees being too expensive.  Silly Rabbit.

1 comment:

  1. I just can't support the contest model anymore. It's too expensive, too unknown and there are good small presses and opportunities to share your work without winning a contest. Hell, Margaret Atwood is now sharing her poems for free on Wattpad.