I rarely enter contests. I just think there is something degrading about bearing the soul to strangers for a fee. Because there is always a contest entrance fee.
But when I’d heard that Dorianne Laux was to judge The Smoking Poet contest – the first annual – and the entrance fee was only $5, I decided to send them three of my poems. They weren’t necessarily the ones I’d consider “my best” poems, but they were poems that I thought were closest to the type of poetry that bears some semblance of affinity with the preferences of the judge, keeping in mind that there is no perfect way to measure another person’s preferences.
Nevertheless, I was elated to have received a rejection letter from The Smoking Poet editors and a thank you for participating. I wasn’t expecting that at all. I’ve never seen a rejection letter from a contest before. But keep in mind I’m using the term “rejection letter” loosely. Tell me if you think this reads like one:
Thank you, Allen, for being part of The Smoking Poet’s First Annual Poetry Contest. The final votes have come in from our panel of judges, and although your poetry did not make it into the top four selections, we wanted you to know that we enjoyed reading your work very much. From so many, many submissions, it was difficult to choose … but we hope you will submit to us again. Watch for our regular calls for submissions and more upcoming contests.
I don’t know if any of the other non-winners received the same rejection letter, or a similar one, but I thought it was nice of them to say that they enjoyed reading my work. Congratulations to the winners of the contest, and may your best poems be set in the future:
First Prize: “Northward” by Koh Xin Tian
Second Prize: “Sock Puppet” by Malcolm R. Campbell
Third Prize: “Reunion: 30 Years Too Late” by Lana Maht Wiggins
Honorable Mention: ”Selected Love Letters I’m Still Trying to Write” Kelli Russell Agondon
By the way, I love the name The Smoking Poet for a literary journal. It speaks rebellion.