Tuesday, April 29, 2008

two poetry prize comps with oddish conditions

Newcastle Poetry Prize entry form - closing date 4th July 2008 - stipulates in Conditions of entry #3. "The manuscript must be an original work, written in English, and must not have been previously published or accepted for publication, or be under offer to any publisher. Presentation on the internet via blog or website constitutes publication for the purposes of the prize."

Max Harris Poetry Award entry form - closing 15th July 2008 - stipulates in Conditions of entry #12. "Poems must not contain offensive material that breaches the university's ethics regulations."

With regard to the former, yeah, I can understand that website and blogs would be considered as publishing, but do wonder how that could be checked by a judge or judges during their judging process (which is blind judging) and it would be difficult to check after the fact also, unless the contest judge/s (or admin folk) googles every poet's name and finds their sites and blogs and reads through all the entries to ensure that the poem (or part of the sequence/poem) has not appeared there (bit of a 'too hard an ask' for anyone gracious enough to judge expecting that of them) I would imagine, though, that as it is a condition of the prize, then someone will have to do it or else, it might come back to bite a few bums. The Newcastle Poetry Prize provides a substantial funding pot and is highly regarded by those that enter and those that win, so my point on this clause is that, if the clause is in place as a condition of entry, then there needs to be some way to ensure that that condition is supervised (policed yuk too harsh but...) overseen?? (rather than overlooked).

With regard to the Max Harris, well I'm not too sure what that #12 condition could mean. Does it mean swearing? does it mean libel and slander? does it mean overly political? does it mean ...? And as a condition, shouldn't it be spelled out more clearly, so that contestants know what condition they are breaching or complying with when they enter. I wonder what are the 'university's ethics regulations' and where would one get a look at them (and please, forget it if the regulations are longer than a page, too hard to read through an entire opus to establish whether one is in breach with an entry or not) - so how can these conditions be established and overseen?? (rather than overlooked) because if they mean don't use the words xyx or don't mention personal names of people or don't poke fun at this university or any other such thing, then they should spell it out, or at least give one a sense of what it is they mean.

I am not trying to 'knock' these comps, because they are both so beneficial to poets. I just think that conditions are shifting things, sometimes and that not a lot of checking does really go on, can't, it's the nature of the beast with blind judging and trust, that is, trusting the poet to send work that is in line with the conditions.

I remember judging an open poetry comp run by a regional university and awarding a winner (prize being money and publication later in the university journal) and a selection of highly commended and commended (prize being no money, but also publication in the university journal) and prior to the publication of the journal, saw that one of the entries had also won (money and a publication) in another comp which had a closing date of (almost) the same time for entries as the one I judged, and included the rules about 'not being on offer or submitted to any other comp' --- and this entry was one of the highly commended entries I had given, so this poet (pretty well-known) flew in the face of the conditions, got the poem entered in at least two comps, and won money in one, and got publication in both. I didn't say anything and I'm certain that the poet did not 'dob themselves' and the other comp people may or may not have known.
Perhaps, the challenge is, risk at one's own peril and mostly get away with it. Makes rules (or conditions) seem fit to be broken now doesn't it?


Blogger derek said...

hey louise,

i think 'flying in the face' is th way to go: a positive course of action. i don't consider posting drafts on a blog as publication, & those that do don't understand the nature of publishing.

i've published stuff from my blog in other venues, & will do so again. in fact i might send all blog poems in to the Newcastle Prize. just to see. don't tell anyone.

1/5/08 10:12  
Blogger Louise said...

hey derek, that could be the only way to be true to the nature of the beast...
of course if you did win, you'd only have to delete them from the blog after the fact and who could do anything about that.

sometimes i think people make conditions up when they've had too much to drink - or not enough.


1/5/08 13:15  
Anonymous My dear, Louise, said...

I agree entirely. Rules fit to be broken. In fact there was a time I thought that it was the responsibility of the artist to test boundaries. A kind of social obligation in return for the rest of the world allowing us an existence. Then I realised that one couldn't discover a boundary without crossing it and the trouble began. How are you? You have gone very quiet lately. Are you preparing something wonderful? A poem that asserts the miracle of existence with such delicate precision that the reader feels they have been given a precious gift?

6/4/09 20:08  
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