Friday, July 17, 2009

Pointing the arrow at the narrow

Talking about narrow measures ... There's the book sale issue mentioned earlier and then there are the poetry competitions. Winning and placed poems however marvellous they are, only provide a slice of Australian poetry at a given time. I don't think they are necessarily typical of style or other trends, nor are they the only model for upcoming poets to aim for. Competition anthologies give a broader spectrum of course but are still limited I suspect. (Am working on impressions to some extent - other opinions welcome.) Ron Pretty talks about the significant number of entries in the 2008 Poets Union competition that dealt with political issues, in Yet Why Not Say What Happened (Five Bells festival issue again - Vol 15 # 4 & Vol 14 #1) and how he has sensed a revival in this kind of poetry for some time. As a former publisher and tutor Ron would see an enormous amount of poetry and would have a good handle on things. Did we become complacent for a while? If we interpret what is political broadly, include the personal, include a broad sweep of issues ... I thought we had been doing this for years. So did it drop off? Or are we simply not accessing it? I must say I miss the 1980s-90s when we had a myriad of small magazines. There are those who thought this was a waste of resources or just not practical given funding and distribution challenges but I lapped them up. So many different voices, themes and interests. And any number of poems dealing with political issues. Or perhaps indeed as Ron suggests, these poems just weren't/aren't always taken seriously enough (naive me didn't realize that!). And so was there also a feeling among poets that political oriented poems would not fare well in competitions? Good news that this is changing. By the way winning and placed poems in the Poets Union Poetry Prize are available in booklet form from the Poets Union.

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