DAVID ALPAUGH: “I’m attracted to poetry by its thrilling language—the electricity generated by the A & B of metaphor ‘running beautiful together.’ Visual poetry increases the voltage, counterpointing the poem’s words with a third dimension that commands the eye and affords the complex pleasure of a triple-read. The circular, vortex-driven background of ‘Space Monkey’ forces the outwardthrusting text downward and into orbit around the photo of a nebula that looks suspiciously like a human eye.”
DAVID ALPAUGH: “I’m attracted to poetry by its thrilling language—the electricity generated by the A & B of metaphor ‘running beautiful together.’ Visual poetry increases the voltage, counterpointing the poem’s words with a third dimension that commands the eye and affords the complex pleasure of a triple-read. In ‘Strip Taze’ the text begs a luridly posed photo of a tazer gun to reveal the primitive, naked violence it so seductively tries to obscure via the ‘cheesecake’ of 21st century technology. There will be blood! (Part of the fun was getting the final word ‘flow’ to end up on that red button.)”
Essay: “What’s Really Wrong with Poetry Book Contests” by David AlpaughPosted by Rattle
WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH POETRY BOOK CONTESTS?
Note: As winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize and owner of SmallPoetry Press, David Alpaugh has both won and run a Poetry Book Contest.
Isn’t that a rhetorical question? Everyone knows what’s wrong with poetry book contests. They’re rigged! In 2004 the web site Foetry began investigating personal connections between contest judges and winners. The poetry world was shocked by allegations that some of America’s most prestigious prizes were going to the judges’ students, friends, colleagues, even lovers.
Dishonesty! Cronyism! That’s what’s wrong with poetry book contests, right?
Not really. Most contest operators, screeners, and judges would never engage in the deplorable but statistically rare conduct outed by Foetry. I didn’t know any of the parties involved in the judging process that led to my own book award. During the five years that I ran a national chapbook contest there were never any personal connections between my screeners and judges and the finalists and winners they selected.
A glance at recent headlines should assure us that there’s no more corruption in “po-biz” than in sports, medicine, law, politics, media, religion, or any other human enterprise. To their credit, many contests responded to the concerns that Foetry raised by establishing clear ethical guidelines for screeners and judges and by taking steps to assure the anonymity of contestants. Manuscripts are more likely to be evaluated solely on their merit today than ever before.
Exclusive focus on the minor problem of contest fraud, however, has allowed more serious, systemic problems to go unnoticed. What’s really wrong with poetry book contests? They are being rendered less effective each year by the supply side economics that has subsidized their exponential growth and that promises even more in the foreseeable future.