Competitions are springing up all over the place. Competitions in competition with competitions.

Competitions are springing up all over the place. Competitions in competition with competitions.



A few of last year's STORY entries
A few of last year’s STORY entries

I say this as somebody who is trying to get the flyer right for this year’s HappenStance STORY competition. Yesterday I read about Iota’s new poetry competition (actually it is new Iota’s new poetry competition), and Mslexia arrived, not only flagging this year’s poetry competition but a new short story competition.

I had a submission from a poet recently too — quite a good one — where the main track record was a series of wins or placings in competitions. Hardly any poems in the magazines I usually read.

I have mixed feelings about all of this. Competitions raise money to keep enterprises going, so when Arts Council Funding flags, expect to see more of them. They don’t raise easy money, but they can bring in substantial amounts. It’s not ‘easy’ cash, because the administering of the competition itself is complicated and time-consuming. But so is completing funding applications, with their various knock-on demands.

A competition culture almost certainly affects the dominant mode of writing. That is to say: there are myriads of poems which are simply not competition poems. They are too long or too short or too slight or too whimsical. A competition poem needs a bit of gravitas. A competition poem needs to be capable of being marketed as a Winner.

Oh dear. I suppose I don’t like the X factor culture in which we live. I don’t like Stars in Your Eyes. I don’t like Market-Driven Existence.

But why am I writing this bloggery business at all? It’s part of HappenStance profile raising. It’s an indirect way of — yet again — Getting Attention. You have to Get Attention to get readers. It’s too complicated for me on this wild, wuthery January morning — too complicated by far. Every blog is in competition for somebody’s time, in competition with the trillions of other blogs on the web, in competition with the uncountable moments of existence in which a person could be doing something else. Their STORY competition flyer, for example.

When I look at my own poems (for example, a recent one is called The Land-Lubber’s Song and it begins ‘Livery livery liver-me-lee / Give me a long, long liver’), they start to shrink and quiver slightly. I can’t enter them for anything. I have grave doubts about even sending them to magazine editors…

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