Friday, October 24, 2008

The Tight-ass Awards

Was just going through the eligibility requirements for this year's CBC Literary Competition when suddenly, I couldn't believe my eyes. Italics mine:
All entries must be original and unpublished works. All works that have appeared in print or on the web, including self-published works, as well as works that have been broadcast or delivered in front of a public audience are considered previously published and are therefore not eligible for the competition.
In other words, if you've so much as farted a poem in public, it's ineligible for the CBC Literary competition.

What a ridiculous gag order!

I guess they want to encourage the silent, anal-retentive types who keep their unpublished work to themselves, who never share new work on the spur of the moment in a reading.

Even if most of my poems are eligible, I don't feel like even implicitly condoning this nonsense by submitting to it. I'm sure Robert Weaver, who founded this competition -- and who championed the likes of Irving Layton and Al Purdy -- is doing somersaults in his grave right now.

PS. John Fretz, organizer of the Poetry Plus readings, sent me this e-mail in response, reproduced here with his permission:

Hi Brian:

Thanks for your attention to this salient detail. My view of a public reading is somebody like John Steffler given an honorarium to read/talk before an organized crowd of people who have basically never met the poet - a funded event...and not poems read before a group of friends or circle who mostly know each other, and who do so without a predetermined honorarium. In any case, the CBC should define and clarify what they mean. It's not stopping me this time around.


My response, here considerably refined, went something like this:

Even if [public reading] were as you define them, [their restriction on them] is BS. I don't want to make too much of this, but it seems to me an outgrowth of our culture of surveillance -- the over-controlling, neo-con proto-fascism that's becoming more and more pervasive in our times (see CBC's own radio/podcast series, The Suspect Society). I've read for honorarium too -- and sometimes reading new poems for such a public (well, any public) helps me to spot phrases that could be to revised, etc. Considering how spotty attention can be at such readings, how malleable people's memories are, this hardly constitutes "publication". Your reply, though, makes me reconsider sending work to them... at least provides a more reasonable way to word a letter to the CBC on this matter. Another question of a potpourri of questions: if one revises one's poem after reading it out loud, does it constitute the same poem? Perhaps they do indeed need to define their terms. But again, whatever way you cut it, the terms are ridiculous.

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