Saturday, May 4, 2013
Percy French Prize for Serious Poetry?
The reasons I didn't attend were manifold. I didn't much like the way that the competition was advertised - it seemed to be looking for slammers and rappers, rather than people who can craft a comic verse. I didn't like the way that the number of shortlistees has been cut from ten down to eight and now down to six. I didn't like the way that the competition was pushed back to 10pm, as the highlight of the evening is always the craic in Anthony's afterwards and this would seriously eat into that time. And I have also taken a strong turn against serious poetry mainly due to the politics within it. All in all, despite the fact that I have tremendous admiration for the people on the ground running the festival - Melissa, Pat, Kay, Shane et al - the weekend didn't inspire me to attend.
Now, I've been speaking to a couple of former shortlistees about the competition and, like me, they're not enamoured about the way things have gone. One of them, in England, added the fact that the nominations were announced so late that, had she been successful, she would have had to have declined, as Ryanair flights would have been too expensive.
But the main reason that all three of us felt disheartened by this year's "inaugural" comic verse competition was that none of us got through. Is that arrogant? Well, possibly. But, and I mean absolutely no disrespect to the winner, none of us failed to see anything remotely comic in the winning entry. You can read it here and then tell me it had you rolling around in the aisles.
I, like the others, hark back to Declan O'Brien and The Corinthians Letter to St Pauls; Josh Ekroy and his Vicrossloo (a non-rhyming poem); Sean Lyons and his trips to Fungerola and Shopping for Trousers; Martin Parker's subtle wit; John McDonagh's superbly crafted poems; Ian McDonald's ribald humour, Dee Gaynor's wry take on life, Margaret Hickey's subtle, yet perfectly metred observations (well done Margaret for making the shortlist by the way). The list goes on and on. Memorable poems. All crafted their works to maximise the humour but still retain the poetical authenticity. Sadly, I don't get this from 'Ideal.'
Of course, its not Samantha's fault. The judge picked it. But the disappointment for me is that there are so very few outlets for humorous verse in the world today. Nobody wants it; there are precious few competitions for it. Yet it is an art form that takes every bit as much skill to perfect as serious poetry. And Strokestown was the one competition every year we looked forward to because it seemed to appreciate the art form. Okay, it never printed up the winning poems (one step in the right direction for this year's organisers) but at least you knew the winning poem would have to be something special - both comic and well-crafted a la Percy French - to beat off the competition.
Now, sadly, there seems little point in entering again.