Sunday, December 06, 2009

The writing life

A month or so ago, I was asked if I wanted to co-judge the Writers' Collective's annual poetry contest.

I gladly accepted, as I gladly accepted each of the other two times I've judged their contests for them.

(And gladly accepted third prize when I entered the poetry contest myself last year...)

Judging for the Writers' Collective has a private and a public face.

The private part of the undertaking is probably typical to every other writing contest: a batch of anonymous entries, each inscribed with a number.

Which is not to say that identifying markers have been stripped away.

Though most contest guidelines indicate that people should use something like Times New Roman, 12 pt., most people have a preferred font and a preferred font size for presenting their poetry.

Which gives the submissions a flavour and a tone that sets them apart from each other.

Interestingly, a number of entrants this year presented each poem in a different font/font size, which made me think they were all from a single creative writing class and varying the font/font size was a 'tip' they'd been given.

"Varying the font/font size is refreshing to the eye!" Or some such bunk.

(More after the turn...)

Sometimes, given that this is a local poetry contest, it is possible to guess the identity of entrants, given the general mien of their poetry or even specific poems.

Which is nothing more than a private parlour trick, unless that recognition signals that there's a conflict.

This year, I didn't recognize any of the poets behind the submissions, either while anonymous or when faces had been put to names. Which I actually prefer, come to think of it...

In any event, the public face of judging this contest involves more than coming to a decision on win-place-show with your co-judge.

You also have to come up with reasonably coherent judges' comments for each of the three winners and present said winners with their prizes at the awards ceremony.

And agree on who's going to say what. And who's going to hand out the certificates. And who's going to read the poems of winners who aren't present.

Finally, after all's said and done, you also have to stand at one end of the room for a group photograph.

Which is where this photo comes in. Co-judge Jennifer Still and I with two of the winners and two of four honourable mentions.

(What can I say, we turned out to be soft touches for promising poets...)

It should go without saying that I am grateful to the Writers' Collective for the opportunity to judge their contests for a third time.

I am grateful too for the excuse the contest gave Jennifer and I to talk poetry, in a week and a month when I spent all my time in boxes instead of in books.

Finally, I am grateful to have had another excuse to attend a Writers' Collective awards ceremony, which are always warm and hopeful and brimful of people attempting the writing life.


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