Short Poem Contest Winners and a Statement on Criticism

1. Original rules | Meet the Contestants #1 | Meet the Contestants #2 | Meet the Contestants #3 | Meet the Contestants #4 | Meet the Contestants #5 | Meet the Contestants #6 | Meet the Contestants #7

2. As some of you know, I helped run a Short Poem Contest on deviantart. The challenge was to write a poem of 30 words or less on the theme of music.

I have to say “helped” because although I came up with the idea, announced it, promoted it, donated to my own prize pool and read and reread many of the entries, my efforts are a drop in the bucket when finally considered. C.J. Wilde read every single entry herself and gave all kinds of support to every contestant. She even helped judge. A few did as she did, albeit on a smaller scale. No amount of me promoting everyone would matter if people didn’t actually do anything with the announcement. A bunch of others wrote journal entries announcing the contest and directly recruited many to join. And, of course, there was the matter of actually participating – a help in itself, trust me – and contributing prizes. My donation is nowhere near the amount donated, in terms of deviantart points.

The end result was incredible. 58 entries. That’s ridiculous for a two week long contest. If I had gotten 20 I would have been happy. At one point I thought I might get 80-100: people were entering that quickly.

3. I’m not exactly bad at this criticism stuff, as you can see from this on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 or Dickinson’s “There’s a certain Slant of light.” In fact, there’s a number of people who think I’m a lot better than “not exactly bad.” If there is a way to objectively analyze some parts of a literary work, can’t we say one work is definitively better than another? Doesn’t the concept of “great books” require this sort of logic?

The easy answer is that judging in a contest isn’t the same as analyzing literature. I spend weeks, sometimes even months, mulling over poems or texts before writing anything. That isn’t to say I’m giving no time to poems in a contest. It’s just that there literally isn’t time to offer on that scale. Besides, contestants should be able to impress to some degree. This is a practical logic, and it is true for the judgment presently rendered.

But the easy answer is ultimately too easy. It takes for granted a difference between “literature” and “what’s being created now,” a difference I myself don’t employ when choosing a work for serious critique. If it’s worth thinking about, it’s worth thinking about.

In the end, a critic needs to know his limits. There are lots of things I miss on a first read, lots of things I miss just generally. Consensus about what is good or great can blind as well as draw my attention to more appropriate objects. This isn’t the same sort of excuse I offered two paragraphs ago. What is really beautiful is known over time. Practical demands can fall out of a higher project.

The goals of the contest were to get people writing and helping each other out as artists. That’s been achieved.

4. Finally, the winners:

First place goes to BeyondJen’s “Muse” – there’s a double or triple collapse of activities into each other. Listening to music creates a room which might as well be the chambers of brain. Somehow this is parallel with or the direct cause of writing.

Second place to AlecBell’s “On the Podium” – I took it as a joke about the ego of some conductors. But there’s definitely something serious and powerful about it, and it is extremely quotable.

Third place – Packeranatic’s “Mouth to Music” – a very, very strong entry. It’s growing on me each time I reread. The question of what state of mind an “album on repeat” can be connected with is well-developed. “He’s deaf on arrival.”

Honorable mentions:

Kneeling Glory’s “Guitar Lessons” is earthy, quietly beautiful and tender.

dweckie’s “Reverie.” uses love to metaphorically describe music.

SilverInkblot’s “Inheritance” sets up a scene well, and good questions abound.

5. I offered a prize to the person who promoted this contest the most. I can’t say for sure who that was. So many of you did so much work. But letterjak definitely deserves some kind of prize for the sheer number that signed up because of him. A huge thanks to Love-the-peace and kymira12 for some exceptional effort in getting people to sign up and feel welcome.

The toughest part of this critic/judge role is showing gratefulness. Thanks to all those who participated and promoted and contributed to this. The collected poems are here; the prizes and those contributing are listed in the above “Meet the Contestant” entries. A huge thanks to pixiepot for offering something really unique.


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