Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Bad Out There

What's Really Wrong with Poetry Book Contests?

"Nor should we assume that the poet judge is passionate about his or her choice. He has been hired not to discover a great book (that word is frowned upon in professional circles) but merely to choose the best of those presented by screeners who are often inexperienced MFA candidates. Trapped like a spider in a web, not of his own spinning, the judge is a relativist when it comes to taste. He must be satisfied with the juiciest fly that wanders in. Once he’s rendered his verdict and written his blurb, the judge’s commitment to the book, for all practical purposes, ends."

"Imagine what 20th century poetry would be like had Ezra Pound, Mrs. Alfred Nutt, John Quinn, James Laughlin, Barney Rosset, Cid Corman and Lawrence Ferlinghetti been content to be uncommitted contest coordinators rather than passionate editors, publishers, or patrons of the art. Behind The Waste Land, North of Boston, Patterson, Howl, and other landmark books of the last century were men and women willing to risk money, credibility, even imprisonment for poetry that mattered."

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