Sunday, November 25, 2007

Contests

I've been thinking a lot of things over the last week that I'd wanted to post, but have been slow getting into new routines with my new computer. Now I forget them.

I was thinking about poetry contests and the vogue for "fairness" that Foetry seemed to engender for a while. I'm not sure that fairness exists in the world at large anyway--that any time anyone tries to apply the concept to issues that affect people older than 8 or so (maybe 10), the whole concept of "fairness" is revealed as a transparent sham.

How can one be "fair" when the end cut is so tied into aesthetic values? I mean, it seems as though one can eliminate approximately 2/3 of the manuscripts submitted to a contest just because the quality isn't there--and I don't mean quality as an aesthetic judgment, I mean quality as a baseline for a measure of maturation or simple raw talent. Then, of that remaining third, you're looking at stuff that's uneven. Then you get down to about 60 or so and judgments about how a style or so on fits with the press and the editors' mission, tastes, and aesthetic values kicks in. And finally you've got about 20 or so and it's a matter of which one you like best! Because the remaining manuscripts are all of a equally high quality.

What does "fairness" mean in that context? Even reading blindly doesn't mean you can't identify something because you just happened to see one of the published poems earlier in a journal.

All that said, I don't really have a problem with the contests, per se. But I guess you do have to weigh for how long you can keep paying the entry fees, the postage, the materials, etc.

The one problem I have is with those that use an anonymous judge. That strikes me as unfair--if you've been a recent student of that person, it's a conflict of interest for them to choose you. Or if you know that person doesn't or probably wouldn't like your work, why bother paying the $20+ fee, the postage, the materials--all of that adds up to as much as $25 or $30 per contest.

I've had other, more interesting thoughts lately, as well! But I will save them for another time.

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