Recently I was one of six finalists in a poetry competition with a first prize of $1,000. This figure alone should get the average writer’s heart pounding but surprisingly the competition received only twenty seven entries.
True, this was a New Zealand competition, and concerned the 150 year commemoration of a British versus Maori battle. The significance being that this was one of the first battles that Maori won using trench warfare. (None of this standing in square, chests marked with crossed red webbing that invited the opposition to ‘aim here’ as the British forces were forced to do in the eighteen hundreds.)
For the final judging we six poets were asked to read our poems aloud, before the Judge. A small crowd filled a room off a restaurant and between the two sets of readings the audience were entertained with a song by one of the descendents of the Maori who fought and still live in this district.
I didn’t win but was heartened to see the youngest poet claim the prize money. Hopefully this will inspire her to write more poetry and I am sure the money will be well invested in her future education. There wasn’t a brief for this contest: simply write a poem to commemorate the Battle of Gate Pa. It was a shot in the dark as to what you wrote as the history and information available was comprehensive. http://history-nz.org/wars4.html
I thoroughly enjoyed the creation, editing, rewriting, tweaking, and my final selection of stanza before I submitted my effort.
On the night I met up with fellow writers and poets I hadn’t seen for some time and had the satisfaction of reading my poem to a captive audience, something that is not always possible to find.
I’m a great fan of entering competitions. Just by entering you are improving your writing skills. I now have a poem I love; on a subject I wouldn’t ordinarily have chosen to write about. Plus it will now be filed in the local Library’s kete (learning basket) and available through Te Papa’s website. Te Papa is our national museum. There is even talk of recording the pieces, read by their creators and for these recordings to be available for the public to listen to.
What more can a poet want?