Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

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David Campbell
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Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Post by David Campbell » Wed May 17, 2017 8:25 pm

Thanks, Wendy, it's great to see the rewards that are coming with all your hard work...good luck with the poem!

That's very interesting background to those poems, Brenda. I guess part of the challenge will always be deciding where to send what. That's a terrific article, by the way, and well worth a repeat appearance in the magazine.

Thank you, Shelley, although anyone who writes or performs bush poetry is in the promotion business. My most useful perspective probably comes from having one foot in the dominant free verse arena and trying to even things up a bit so that rhyming verse gets a bit more respect.

I know what you're saying, Stephen, and suspect that there are quite a few in the bush poetry world who agree with you. My starting point is the fact that we currently have "clear mastery of metre" as a guideline for written competitions and, while that's there, it can't be ignored. So I've given my interpretation. If the ABPA decides to make that less prescriptive then the situation changes, although that will only exacerbate the "judges' subjectivity" problem that people regularly complain about. It is hard to get poems technically correct and creative...that's the challenge I enjoy. The ABPA scoresheet also refers to "An original concept or a novel approach to a well-worn subject" and "A poem that impacts the reader greatly" and has that "wow" factor, so the provision for creativity is there and, hopefully, winning poems will cover all the bases. As you say, it all comes down to priorities, and if enough people wanted more of an emphasis on the creative side of things and less on metre and rhyme, that'd need to be argued through at Executive level. In that regard, it becomes a case of how far do you go? (Note that the article wasn't about "minor technical imperfections", but rather poems that were completely inconsistent throughout.) We've had a fair bit of debate about this issue over the years and there are quite a few things that could be done in terms of flexibility and creativity (particularly with regard to structure), but would the result still be bush poetry?

I agree that there are often poems that are technically correct but lacking in the area of creativity, just as there are performance poets who get the memory part spot-on but are as dull as ditchwater to listen to. That's just the way it is. But taking a more lenient approach to metre and rhyme probably means we'd end up with just as many long, boring poems, the only difference being that they were also not crash-hot in terms of metre and rhyme either.

In terms of length, for better or worse, quantity does seem to be a factor. But that just comes down to choosing which poems to send where. I write, as you do, until I've said what I want to say (whether it's poetry or a short story), and then look for an appropriate competition. I'm not going to send a 500-word story to a competition with a limit of 3000 words.

And finally, one thing I do appreciate about judging bush poetry is that there is something objective to hang your hat on. Judging free verse, however...oh boy! That's where subjectivity (and creativity?) really rules.

Cheers
David

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Wendy Seddon
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Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Post by Wendy Seddon » Wed May 17, 2017 9:13 pm

I thought that to create a technically perfect poem
that is also creative and entertaining is our Holy Grail.
"All appears to change when we change." - Henri-Frederic Amiel

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Brenda Joy
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Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Post by Brenda Joy » Wed May 17, 2017 9:30 pm

I agree Owly -- that is the Holy Grail and what a wonderful quest it is to try to find it.
:)
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Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Post by Terry » Thu May 18, 2017 9:42 am

Congratulation David and all winners

I've never entered that one, wasn't sure exactly what it was.

Cheers

Terry

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Shelley
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Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Post by Shelley » Thu May 18, 2017 8:37 pm

Wendy and Brenda -

Your "holy grail" comments remind me of an TV interview with Clive James that I saw last year. He said that his quest was to write the "perfect poem". When the interviewer asked whether a "perfect poem" was possible, Clive said probably not, but that wasn't going to stop him from trying!

Makes sense to me! :D

Cheers
Shelley
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Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Post by Shelley » Sat May 20, 2017 9:21 am

David

You are right, we all do our bit for the promotion of our craft, and all of those efforts deserve recognition.

However as you say, you are in a unique position to try to raise awareness in a wider sphere, which is why I called you an "ambassador" ... beavering away on our behalf in the "foreign country" of free verse!

;) Shelley
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Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Post by Shelley » Thu Jun 01, 2017 2:18 pm

I have just read David's follow-up article in the June/July ABPA magazine, and thank you again, David, for further clarification and expansion on this topic which poses some dilemmas for us all. It is interesting to contemplate where we draw the line. Where, indeed?

I also note the published letter to the editor responding to David's original article. I believe the writer of this letter misses the point that David is discussing the application of criteria that is set in place. "Clear mastery of metre" is not something David has dreamed up on his "wish list" - it is already there, in the definition of Australian bush poetry, and on the judging sheet. It is a strict rule. If a judge chooses to ignore it in favour of "creativity" or "imagination", it opens up a can of worms in all the ways we've already discussed.

Like any defined criteria, it should be applied in written competitions. Would a sonnet, no matter how fine, win a limerick competition? Would a landscape, no matter how breathtaking, win the Archibald prize for portraiture? Clearly not. The criteria has not been met.

As to the letter writer's comment that written competition winners have "understood and worked out the judging system" (and apparently win on that basis), well, I'm sorry - but I wish I could work it out! The reports and feedback of diverse judges continue to be an endless source of head-scratching to me, and if anyone has "worked it out", I'd certainly like to know the secret!

As to the issue of technicality versus creativity, I do agree with Stephen's comment on this thread that there is a lot of dull and boring stuff out there. However, there are also many wonderfully imaginative and creative poems that are technically correct. As David has said before, it often takes minimal effort to correct the flaws in one's first draft, without losing the poem's immediacy and appeal.

In a general sense, I believe there is no need to draw a distinction between creativity and accuracy of metre and rhyme. Why is there sometimes an assumption that a creative and imaginative poem won't be accurate, whereas a dull and boring one will? A dull poem will always be dull, but a creative poem will not suffer by being accurate in rhyme and metre. Rather, I believe it will be enhanced.

No doubt the debate will go on ...

Cheers
Shelley
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David Campbell
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Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Post by David Campbell » Fri Jun 02, 2017 6:14 am

Thanks, Shelley, you make some excellent points. I found it interesting that the letter-writer had only entered one competition, apparently because of a belief that "some people have obviously understood and worked out the judging assessment system" (Tom being one of those people because his name appeared several times in the Dunedoo comp). Hopeful competition entrants need to recognise that a results list is only the tip of the iceberg...you see the successes, but you don't see the many failures that probably preceded that success. And entering one competition is hardly a strong background for deciding what might or might not form the basis for winning awards...especially if you haven't taken the time to check the ABPA guidelines first!

Given the idiosyncratic nature of judging, there can never be any "formula", but paying careful attention to metre and rhyme at least puts you in with a chance. However, as you and I both know very well, we can write poems that we reckon are pretty good and see them fall by the wayside in written competitions time and time again. That's just the way it is. If you have faith in what you've written, it's a case of persevering until, if you're lucky, you strike a sympathetic judge. I've had poems (both rhyming and non-rhyming) and short stories that have been ignored for years, but have suddenly caught a judge's eye. Expecting to write something and have it achieve immediate success is simply a pipe-dream...writing is a learning process that takes a lot of work. And maybe that's a lesson some people need to learn the hard way.

Cheers
David

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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Fri Jun 02, 2017 7:06 pm

I think your point about persistence is very well made, David. Publishing is the same. For every poem I have accepted for publication, I have about nine rejected. This has remained remarkably constant over the years. To get 50 poems published, I have to write 500 - at least. I think of it as being a bit like mining - you have to crush a lot of quartz to get a few specks of something of value.

The bush poetry movement is interesting in that it stands apart from the rest of the writing world. Most writers of other genres (contemporary poetry, short story, novel, non-fiction, etc.) are active in more than one genre or, if not, they almost certainly read other genres. They join writers' groups, read their newsletters, attend seminars and courses, and get to know how publishers operate. The bush poetry movement, as I see it, is not like that. Many bush poets - perhaps most of them - do not think about other genres. This stems, I think, from the fact that many bush poets live outside the major metropolitan centres. As a result, they have very limited exposure to the general world of writing and publishing.

One thing I have noticed in the relatively small amount of judging I have done is just how poor many poets are in the basics of spelling and grammar. They obviously were not taught them at school. What is even more difficult is that I suspect many do not realise how far off the pace they are in this regard, which makes it very difficult for them to improve. Sadly, when it comes to written competitions, they are beaten before they start. (What is more, I am sure it would not be easy to try to master spelling and grammar as an adult.)

It was only when I started to do a bit of judging that I really began to appreciate just how fortunate I had been to be sent to a good school in the city where grammar and spelling were pushed hard, and taken very seriously. I am sure many bush poets have had fairly indifferent schooling. They might flourish in the world of performance, but come unstuck in the written world.

Of course, the upside of all this is that it is great that the bush poetry movement does exist. It fills a niche for many in rural and regional Australia who would have almost no literary outlet without it. (The downside is that it is something of a dead end - it doesn't lead to anything other than itself.)

I am conscious that I might be sounding a little patronising in saying all this. I certainly don't mean to, but I do think it is worth pointing out. It feels a bit like the elephant in the room sometimes. As I was thinking about writing this, it did occur to me that the ABPA could possibly address this in a formal sense - offer to give members feedback on their spelling and grammar, and also provide resources for people to try to improve their skills.

I realise none of this relates directly to rhyme and metre, but perhaps is it indirectly related.
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
http://www.stephenwhiteside.com.au

Terry
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Re: Article in ABPA Magazine - re Written Competitions

Post by Terry » Fri Jun 02, 2017 7:57 pm

Ah Stephen!
Just spare a thought for us poor old bushies, can’t spell (sounds like me), in fact can’t do anything much at all.
So as you city types are delving into the intricate delights of mind expanding worldwide poetry and the arts, we’re in the bar of the local reciting dirty ditties.

But seriously Stephen have you ever stopped to even consider that a lot of people are happy just penning the odd line or two and have absolutely no ambition at all of having their name up in lights so to speak.

There is one point though that I must agree with, if you are going to enter poetry competitions and have any hope of even being considered for an award, you had better learn to write to a standard that may at least give you a chance.

I also agree with an earlier comment of yours about finding many longer poems somewhat boring. You need to be a very good writer and have an excellent poem to stop many of us from bailing out half way through.

Cheers

Terry

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