The subjectivity of judging

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Terry
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Re: The subjectivity of judging

Post by Terry » Sun Jan 14, 2018 11:26 pm

David I'm at best a hobby poet, apart from entering a few Comps I have no other wish to go beyond that.
As for preferences, I have no personal dislikes to any form of poetry - indeed I have had a go at a few different styles over the years.
Mind you I also have no wish to convert anyone to anything either- live and let live I reckon.

My comment about deterring people from sending their winning poems stems from what Mal said. If memory serves me right he said after reading all the winning poems from the last 12 months that many of the poems were appalling and poorly constructed or words to that effect.
As I clearly stated, I've always enjoyed Mal's poems, and found him to be a pretty good bloke in the few cyber chats we've had over the years - but I still think my comment regarding that was fair enough.

Terry

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Shelley
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Re: The subjectivity of judging

Post by Shelley » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:55 pm

Hi All

This subject is generating its fair share of robust debate - as it always does.

For what it's worth, I believe we have a group of outstanding bush poetry writers in this country - and for the most part, the results of written competitions bear this out. However, from time to time a prize-winner crops up that leaves me wondering why a judge or judges felt it was permissible to overlook poor rhyme and/or metre. It is, after all, essential criteria in bush poetry - and not dependent upon a judge's personal opinion. A poem's subject and content, no matter how heartfelt, emotive, clever or humorous, simply cannot be allowed to override the requirements of correct and consistent rhyme and metre.

As has been said before, within those boundaries the scope is still extremely wide. We are not limited to rhyming couplets or iambic pentameter (though there is nothing wrong with them). If we wish, we can explore more imaginative rhyme and metre patterns, yet still comply with the rules of a bush poetry competition.

As for choice of subject - does it matter whether our poems are about cattle droving or cyber-bullying? Both are undeniably facets of "the Australian way of life". I truly believe that within modern bush poetry there is room for the preservation of Australian history and aspects of outback life. But on the other hand - our voices can also be effectively used to illuminate contemporary issues. Far from dividing us, surely our diversity should be one of our greatest strengths.

We are storytellers! I believe that if we hone our skills to be the best we can, and tell the stories that speak to our hearts - they cannot fail to reach the hearts of others who love rhyming verse. They may even attract new converts to our genre - when they realise that the scope of modern bush verse extends far beyond "doggerel".

But ... we have to stick together, and we have to keep our standards high! As David eloquently expressed it in his 2017 articles for the ABPA magazine, nowhere is this more important than in written competitions - where prize-winning poems should be the cream of the crop, despite the subjectivity of the judging process.

By the way, Stephen, thanks for the head-up on Jackie Hosking's written poetry competition. I remember there was some mention of it during the Toolangi Festival. I missed the deadline for 2017 but will certainly be on the lookout for it in the future.

Cheers
Shelley
Shelley Hansen
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"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: The subjectivity of judging

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:25 pm

Thanks, Shelley - definitely worth checking out!
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
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David Campbell
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Re: The subjectivity of judging

Post by David Campbell » Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:45 am

To shine another light on this discussion, it’s worth noting a comment made by someone during the debate on the Overland website about my article in The Australian. He had taken the time to check out the winning poems (presumably the most recent ones) on the ABPA website and partly summed them up with:

I saw a great deal of passion, and great self expression. But essentially Paterson, Lawson and others from the late 1800’s are far from being knocked off their pedestal. The works were cliched in language (sometimes archaic) and theme. I feel as if a lot of these poets have ossified. They have found a form that challenges them just enough and an audience that appreciates them. I see no forward momentum. No effort to extend themselves.

Rather than dismissing a comment like that outright, as some might be inclined to do, perhaps we need to reflect on it. Matt McLoughlin, as Mal says, pushed the boundaries of formal poetry, but, unfortunately, he’s not posting any more. What he wrote wasn’t, predictably, to everyone’s taste, but that doesn’t mean it’s a direction that shouldn’t be explored by those interested. And accepted as legitimate. I can’t help but agree with Mal when he says: “If we are to escape the inevitable ravages of age as an organisation then we will need fresh approaches.” And, as Shelley observes, there should be room for both the preservation of Australian history and the tackling of contemporary issues, with greater breadth and depth of writing perhaps attracting new converts.

Cheers
David

Terry
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Re: The subjectivity of judging

Post by Terry » Fri Jan 19, 2018 10:22 am

I don’t think anyone would argue about the comment David referred to regarding the fact that there were no modern Lawson’s or Paterson’s among our current crop of poets, but at the same time, occasionally a real gem does crop up.
I agree about the comment regarding Matt McLoughlin I though his poetry had that something special that we would all love to have.
I don’t think we need to change too much as far as what we write about, as most subjects are now well covered (or can be); we just need to learn to write smarter and better – dare I say we need to get more poetry into our poems, if that makes sense?
I have wondered about the effect that competitions play in the quality of our poems, certainly they’re a great way of learning the basics of writing Traditional poetry. But I wonder if we start writing almost to a deadline; do we tend to become sort of production or conveyer belt poets, always rushing and not having the time to really turn a reasonable poem into a potentially very good one – Just thinking?

Terry

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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: The subjectivity of judging

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:13 am

Terry, I am puzzled by one thing you said.

"We don't have to worry too much about what to write about as all the subjects are well covered." (I am paraphrasing.)

How can all the subjects be well covered? Surely there are always other subjects to write about? And even if it were true (which I very much doubt), that would be a cause for huge worry, surely? Isn't it one of the tasks of any serious writer to always discover new things to talk about?
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
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Terry
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Re: The subjectivity of judging

Post by Terry » Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:15 am

Stephen you should have read the post properly - I did add 'OR CAN BE'.
Surely that means - there's no limit to what you can write about!
My own personal view Stephen, is that you're free to write about anything you wish, it's up to each individual poet.
The trick seems to be getting the general public to like what you write - I sometimes think that we poets tend to overlook that.

Above all, I reckon you have to enjoy what you write, otherwise it becomes a boring chore (to use some American slang), so each of us will follow where our individual minds lead us - and that's how it should be - there's no right or wrong way - just your way.

Cheers Terry

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Shelley
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Re: The subjectivity of judging

Post by Shelley » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:45 am

Hi Terry

This is an interesting comment you make ...
I have wondered about the effect that competitions play in the quality of our poems, certainly they’re a great way of learning the basics of writing Traditional poetry. But I wonder if we start writing almost to a deadline; do we tend to become sort of production or conveyer belt poets, always rushing and not having the time to really turn a reasonable poem into a potentially very good one
Certainly I agree that being rushed for time is a creativity killer - so I guess it comes back to why we write. The answer is different for each poet, of course.

Perhaps some poets do write solely for competitions. I don't know. That's not my motivation. However I do acknowledge that there are exceptions - for example, when an attractively themed competition comes along, I may be inspired to pen something on that particular subject. If the competition deadline beats me before I'm happy with the result, then I simply don't enter.

Also, because of my devotion to CJ Dennis, I do start thinking about the next Toolangi competition as soon as the current one is over, because it gives the unique opportunity to write something inspired by his work, which I love to do.

However in the main, I write because ... well, I write! I've always written, long before competitions entered my orbit, and I hope that will go on. I think competitions are a great way to get our poetry recognised and to share it with a wider audience. But as you and David have both said, if we don't write for ourselves first, and believe in the worth of our own poetry, then we really are missing out on creative fulfillment and joy. If we rely solely on competitions to boost our creative confidence, then we are destined to be disappointed.

Cheers
Shelley
Shelley Hansen
Lady of Lines
http://www.shelleyhansen.com

"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

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David Campbell
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Re: The subjectivity of judging

Post by David Campbell » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:11 pm

As this thread is about the subjectivity of judging it’s worth making a couple of observations following the announcement of the Kembla Flame and Blackened Billy results. Some people may have looked at those lists and, recognising a lot of familiar names, been tempted to subscribe to the theory I referred to at the beginning of this discussion, namely the suggestion by a frustrated member in one of last year’s magazines that “some people have understood and worked out the judging assessment system”, thus cornering the awards market.

Yep, a third in the Kembla Flame suggests I’ve got it all worked out, but hey, wait a minute! The Blackened Billy result says I haven’t got a clue because I entered two poems and the judge completely ignored both of them. So which is it? If I believed the magazine theorist, the BB result would be telling me to give up poetry competitions and try something like carpet bowls instead.

Alternatively, I could take comfort from the Kembla Flame result or look back at last year’s Henry Lawson competition in Gulgong, where I also had two total failures. One was “Far From Home”, which went on to win the Betty Olle Award in Kyabram, the other was “Sweetwater”, which won the serious section of the Australian championships at Toodyay. With no changes to either. Which only re-emphasises the point I made at the beginning…that’s the way it goes. Even when you follow all the guidelines, the simple fact is (as a famous musical philosopher once sang): “Some days are diamonds, some days are stones.”

Cheers (and congratulations to all the winners!)
David

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Shelley
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Re: The subjectivity of judging

Post by Shelley » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:02 pm

So true, David!

Firstly, congratulations on your place in the Kembla Flame.

My experience is similar to yours, but in reverse. I entered three poems in the Kembla Flame this year (more than my usual self-imposed limit of 2), and I had high hopes for one of them in particular. But I was unsuccessful. On the other hand, both my entries in the Blackened Billy scored places in the top ten, which was a delightful surprise, as I’d taken a bit of a gamble with their subjects.

So you just never know. I’ve certainly never found any “winning formula”! Aside from the subjectivity of judging, which is a huge factor, there is also the variability of the field. When you send in entries for each competition, there is no telling what you’ll be up against!

The other thing to consider is how close the top placings may be in points. I remember after one previous competition, the judge told me that there were no more than a couple of points separating the entire top ten. That in itself, is interesting.

Cheers
Shelley
Shelley Hansen
Lady of Lines
http://www.shelleyhansen.com

"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

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