Howard Lake Herald, July 20, 1998

Poetry contest sparks skepticism

By Fred Nus

I never pay much attention to magazine ads, but the 1995 October issue of Trailer Life Magazine had an ad that caught my eye.

The ad screamed for my participation in a poetry contest.

In big, bold type The National Library of Poetry said it would award $24,000 in prizes.

My attempts to write prose during the past 10 years has met with mixed reviews, so why not try poetry?

I have been told it is better to try and fail than to never try, so I composed my first ever poem.

I thought my effort resulted in an excellent work of art, so I submitted a copy to The National Library of Poetry.

Several weeks after I submitted my poem, I received notice that I was a semi-finalist in the poetry contest. Not bad for a first time poet!

In a personal letter to me, The National Library of Poetry made this statement, "Fred, you should be genuinely proud of your accomplishment. We receive thousands of poems each year, and we choose only a very few for publication."

This recognition made me realize that I should have been composing poems over the past 10 years, rather than wasting my time writing prose.

At first, my family gave me accolades for my literary endeavors, but when I told them that I had to send $49.95 to have it published, they questioned how good my poem really was.

I explained that if I didn't want it published, I still qualified for a prize.

It has been a year since I submitted my poem, and I still haven't received a prize!

Oh, by the way, The National Library of Poetry said that for $38 it would make a plaque with my poem mounted on it.

They also said that a very few poems are personally selected to be put on a cassette tape.

It would only cost me $29.95 plus $4 postage. This sounds to me like a really good scheme to make a lot of money!

I was tempted to send $49.95 to have my poem published, but before I decided to have the poem published, I saw a news item in the local newspaper about a local woman who was "honored as a distinguished member of the International Society of Poets and had the privilege of having her poem published by The National Library of Poetry."

Is it possible that two outstanding poets would come from one small town?

What really clinched my suspicions was talking to a student at the local high school who had submitted a poem to this organization and had received word that she was a semi-finalist.

She had sent $49.95 to have her poem published.

Can you believe that three semi-finalists could be found living in my town?

I could believe that Howard Lake would have snow on the 4th of July before I would believe that!

I decided to write to The National Library of Poetry about my concerns. In its reply, it said, "From a group of thousands of entries, our editorial staff chooses the top three percent of all entries as winners of the Poet of Merit Award.

The three percent chosen are considered semi-finalists or fourth place winners and awarded the Editor's Choice Award."

Needless to say, I still have the $49.95 it would cost to have my poem published.

In the 1996 July-August Modern Maturity magazine, there was an article by Marvin Petal about his attempt to have a poem rejected by The National Library of Poetry.

Petal thought the poetry contest was a scheme to separate would-be poets from their money, so he sent them a poem by Mae B. Spurieth, (that is a lisping version of May Be Spurious).

The opening lines of his poem are:

O'er meadows gray with bleating cows

And stays astir with boars and sows

I awake athwart the mystic cranes

And limp sounds of bowling lanes . . . .

Petal received the same reply I did, that he was a semi-finalist!

He couldn't even compose a poem so bad that it would be rejected.

Makes you wonder what was wrong with the 97 percent of poems that were rejected.

Petal didn't give up. He entered the contest three more times under the names Don B. Stewpet (as in Don't Be Stupid), Vera Stewpet, and E. D. Yottes (Idiots).

In each case the reply was "Wonderful verse! Selected for The Sound of Poetry."

They publish over a thousand poems every month. Can you imagine what a gold mine they have!

I recently received an invitation to attend the Famous Poets Convention at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., Sept 12-14.

The invitation stated I would receive the beautiful Diamond Homer trophy and have a chance to read my poem in the spotlight, where I "will flower in confidence as our family of famous poets surrounds you with love and admiration."

The cost is $595 per person for convention functions, and I must pay all other expenses. I still have my money. I'm not going.

But they will send me a beautiful certificate acknowledging me as a "Famous Poet for 1998" shortly after the convention.

I still believe my poem has merit, but I will never know.

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