Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Contest

Have you ever received one of those e-mails that said, in effect, fill out this survey and win “(fill in the blank)”? The survey was soooooo long, and I thought it might never end. I really wasn’t interested in signing up for yet another credit card just to get the free thing. And when the “Enter a Poetry Contest” choice came up, I thought, “Hey, maybe I will get to skip to the end if I pander to one of the sponsors.” What I didn’t realize was that I would have to write a poem there on the spot and enter it before I could continue the survey. So in about five minutes, I wrote this:


Upside down, total blackness
Rising, rising
Frigid waters, power locks
In a corner, total blackness
gasping, gasping
One hundred stories up
This is the way love is.

Now please, please don’t tell me that it’s a “good” poem. Clearly, it isn’t. It was borne of neither sincere effort nor inspiration. Instead, it was connived and contrived in the mind of a teacher that has been thoroughly schooled in the common traits many lauded poems tend to have.

Still, I was surprised to get an e-mail the next week explaining that my poem was one of two-hundred chosen to appear in a “Classic, coffee-table quality hard-bound volume [featured] on a full page by itself…Printed on fine-milled paper specifically selected to last for generations.” This book in the series, Eternal Portraits , could be mine for a mere 49.95$. Right then and there I made a vow that in the future I would only agree to be published if they paid me and not vice versa. At that point, I could have requested to not have my poem published in the book and to be taken off the mailing list.

But I wanted to put all of my chips on the table and let it ride; there was a chance that my little piece of poetry could win me some serious cash. So I continued to receive the e-mails and letters even though I knew the promise of being a published poet was only a racket – it was kind-of like being one of a select 10,000 in the “Who’s Who” of poetry. Lord knows there must have been at least 10,001 entries.

Anyhow, after a week or two of being hounded about buying a copy of the book and more offers to publish a book of my own (I pay for it, of course) and to have my poetry recorded on a CD, I finally discovered the pinnacle of the racket: I was invited to attend a Convention for Poets for only 500$ - not including the air-fare to Florida, no less. So for a thousand dollars, there could be a chance that I could win some cash.

I have to admit, it was a tempting offer - and not because of the promise of fame or fortune, mind you. At this point, I didn’t really care about winning anymore. I might pay a thousand dollars, however, to see who attends this sort of thing. A Convention for Poets. What would that look like? It would be an interesting character study. And there was the promise that Carol Brady herself – the talented Florence Henderson – would be there. I silently wondered what Florence would have to say about poetry to a bunch of poets. Was she a poet herself?

Sadly, I didn’t go, and I didn’t win, and the e-mails stopped. Secretly I was glad. I really wanted to believe that if there was going to be a poetry contest that there were some kind of standards guiding this thing. That it wasn’t just about money.

Who knows, maybe I’ll enter the contest again some day.

1 comment:

Ch@ndy said...

ha...i submitted a poem to those scammers too but it was one i had written a long time ago. i will post it on my blog...