NaNoWriMo is on its final wind-down, and many of you are hopefully very ready to terminate your one-month lease of a headspace where editing was unwelcome. Even more of you are, like us, feeling near-fatally neglected by the muses who have been showering their grace on prosehounds and keeping their distance from verse (or so they would have had you believe). On the heels of the no-editing, no-poetry silence let's recapture our words mid-arabesque--and then hilariously beat them down to nice respectable pliés while that one leg's still stretched backward. #confessional-poetry
and a mangled cast of extras present:
Two Poems: A Contest of Poetry and Editing
- Poetry contest, obviously.
- Submissions open December 1, 2012, and close February 28, 2013. (NO MORE EXCUSES. YOU HAVE PLENTY OF TIME NOW.)
- Open to all members of the site.
- ORIGINAL WORKS ONLY. Nothing that wasn't written specifically for this. This is basically a really terrible workshop where you can win things. Play along. At the minimum, you'll have some fun and push your limits. Best-case scenario, you might write something worth a damn, and be thankful you tried. Also you can win things if you play well.
Sit down and think: Do I have more issues with fixed-form poetry or with open verse? Be honest with yourself: if you can write a great sonnet but can't break a line to save your life, don't say it's your open verse; if you think "bunion" rhymes with "avocado" and that both have three syllables, you're probably not going to find forms easy, unless you're writing tanka.
Write a poem. If, after your soul-searching above, you said you sucked at fixed form, write a sestina or a sonnet or a rubaiyat or something equally daunting to you, or maybe a few haiku if you're the long-winded type normally; if you said you couldn't handle open verse, maybe write a couple dozen lines of poignantly-open verse, where every line's a different length and ends with a completely different group of phonemes. Make it very you, even though it's not the type of poetry you excel in. Edit it a few times, rework your imagery, poeticise your metaphors, rewrite if you have to, until you can confidently say you put effort into making it good for what it is.
Sleep. You've finished the first half of what we're going to harshly judge.
Here's where it gets fun, guys. If you wrote a sestina, cut out all the "I am a serious business form poet for a moment" pretentiousness and pare it down to its nuts and taint--or, less poetically, its theme and images--and then rebuild its torso and legs with indulgent free verse. If you wrote something open, fluff it up or cut it down and geometrically push it piece-by-piece into a form, like the world's most sadistic tangram. This time you're letting the method, as well as the content, represent you. Edit this, too, until it is perfection.
Sleep again. You've just finished the second half--
--who are we kidding? Edit both halves some more, as you're a poet, and you're neurotic, and your work can always use a change, even if it's just one word. Mull and dwell and when you're happy, submit.
is a small business owner, emo poet, and sometimes-publisher from English Canada. He likes magazines with hipster names that appreciate hipster wordsmithing, Patti Smith mixtapes, Armani trunks, and long walks in ravines.
is one of the site's literature CVs who will readily admit she doesn't understand poetry.
$wreckling is less intimidating than his $ymbol would lead you to believe. He's a writer who has been published in
Litterbox Magazine, Foundling Review, The Missing Slate, and Elephant Tree; prior to joining the site's product marketing team, he served as literature GM/CV/ninja-monkey.
The Judging Process
Judges will pick three pieces each that they feel represent the best works submitted, including one that they feel is the best submission, and two that they feel are runners-up. A "BEST SUBMISSION" vote counts for two points, a runner-up vote counts for one point, and whoever gets the most points wins. It sounds complex but it's only complex for me, since I'm the one who has to assign numbers and add things.
Judges pick things that resonate; participants get a "YOU WON!" and a token prize if they win, and a form rejection if they lose. It's kind of like the real world except with less notoriety and without calling the judges "editors" or "wankers".
We will be looking for a few things:
The general execution (legibility, use of poetic language, originality of metaphor, creative acumen) of each poem and whether it seems to read as good poetry. This criterion is subjective and is also the reason why we have a judging panel, to help ensure a little less bias.
Whether there is a marked improvement in your editing from poem one to poem two. Rewriting your exercise into your style should make it better, not cheapen it.
Bonus points if the piece seems to reflect you as an artist, and double-bonus points if it seems to be at least remotely confessional in style, content, or general mouthfeel. It should sit on one's mouth like Mexican barbiturates while one's head rests on the oven's middle rack if it wants these bonus points.
One (1) less-classy critique from `tiganusi
(Keep your eyes peeled; as the contest unfurls, more prizes will likely be added.)
Send pieces for submission by note to the group #confessional-poetry
so they don't get lost in our personal inboxes. Send both poems as one note--if you don't, well, we'll have to overcomplicate things for the judges and make heavy use of google docs.
- A good list of poetic forms. If you don't know or don't usually write forms, I'd probably recommend going for something with repeating WORDS versus rhyme schemes--sestinas and pantoum come to mind--or something with a simple rhyme scheme but no metre, like a ghazal. If you're "advanced" go for something super-fun like a villanelle or a ballade or pick something with a hipster name and give it a shot. If you're seeking hilarious juxtaposition between your poems, go to or from a short Asian form like senryu or tanka.
- NaNoWriMo motivator. Odds are many of you have used this. To apply it to poetry consider taking "write" and changing that to "delete", dividing the number it gives you by 10, and then imagining that the end result will be the universe catastrophically proving you wrong if you fail.