Monday, October 08, 2007

Tim Anderson, "I too have forfeited prizes in poetry."

I too have forfeited prizes in poetry.

One of my daughters once entered me in a poetry contest online - she being 15 and not knowing the whole deal. Upon seeing that the contest was so easy to enter, she found a copy of a poem on my hard drive (one that meant something to her) and with teen-aged precision quickly did the old copy and paste into the entry form. I wasn’t even involved, but I was entered.

Sure enough, a few weeks later (and this was the first I heard about it), I get a notice in the mail that my poem “To My Daughter at Her Birth” was the winner of a special prize in poetry!! Amongst the sheaves of laser printed pages (Yes, Tim Anderson, amongst the thousands of entries, your poetry has been recognized by our judges…) there was the elevated language of real culture and a suitably baroque certificate of congratulations, assuring me of my place among the literary pantheon. The fact that the envelope had metered bulk postage hardly diminished the personalization.

And (oh happy day!) they were releasing a book of all the prize winners, and I could see my poem in print (and get copies for my friends of course). All I had to do was send in $89.95 per copy. As a graphic arts guy, I had a sense of binding and digital short print run costs - my estimate was they were making about a 900% markup…

Oh – the final irony – they printed out my winning poem on my certificate. But it did not read as I remembered it. It seems their web-based submissions process had to limit the number characters in the submissions and therefore my poem was cut off in mid-sentence, so that the final words were a brief phrase that didn’t quite arrive anywhere, which made the work (presumably) all the more poetic and mysterious.

But my daughter was returning my tenderness, and my voice was heard without me even trying to speak, so who am I to complain? After all, however unsuspecting and abbreviated, I was a winner.

written by Tim Anderson
in response to Luci Shaw's poem
"Act Now To Avoid Prize Entry Forfeiture (Pending)"