I had just decided to stopped entering poetry competitions. It's expensive and demoralising. I figured that my poetry (still) wasn't good enough to be at prize winning standard and I should stop throwing good money away after bad and instead spend it on something better like, oh I don't know, more matcha lattes. At least then I'd have a nice a nice experience to show for my expenditure.
In physical sports like tennis there's a clear set of rules, an umpire to make decisions and immediate feedback on your actions. Plus all the adoring fans and sponsorship money. Unlike poetry on the other hand where you write a poem, show it to some friends who muter encouraging words so you decide to pay money and enter it into a competition and then wait to hear that someone else has won.
Entering poetry competitions is a gamble. Not surprising really when you rethink about the number of poets (thousands for some of the major prizes) who enter these competitions for the very few prizes on offer - usually a first and perhaps a second prize and that's it. Standing out from the crowd is next to impossible, or so I thought.
It's funny how the world works isn't it? Not very long after making the decision to stop entering poetry competitions (bythrowing up my hands in the air and saying, 'I quit!'), I came across an email in my inbox telling me I had been longlisted for the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor's International Poetry Prize. Even though I had quit, there were still some irons in the fire so to speak from competitions I had already entered when I was in in a more optimistic frame of mind.
Not only was I longlisted for this prize, I was longlisted twice! The poems the judges selected were Landline which I wrote when I did Andy Jackson's poetry workshop last year and Notes From the Diaspora which was written earlier this year after I returned from my holiday in Sri Lanka. One of the judges is the Indian poet Mani Rao. I fell in love with her poetry and her voice where I heard her read in Canberra at the Poetry on the Move festival a few years ago. Having her choose my poems for the longlist feels like a huge honour.
I was chuffed! I have never been longlisted before and never considered for a prize of this stature. This prize is a big deal and there are a lot of poets I look up to and admire on the longlist including Shastra Deo, Coral Carter, Es Fong, Damen O'Brien and Sara M Saleh. Plus many more I am keen to read when the anthology comes out next year.
Look at the company I am keeping, people, just look! Maybe, just maybe, I can write poetry that connects with people, that transcends, that rises, after all!