poetry contests or a 10-year apprenticeship?

The bottom line is that I believe poets seeking to break into the “scene,” whatever that means, should spend a minimum 10 years giving to that scene by doing one or several of the following: publishing a small press (chapbook and/or journal series), hosting a reading series, otherwise building community by engaging with a group of like-minded poets who both challenge and encourage you (again, via a reading series, weekly discussion, group study, exchanging and critiquing each other’s work, etc.). Call it an apprenticeship, if you will.

via New Pages

I think the “apprenticeship” concept is a valid and useful way to look at things, although I might exclude some of the above suggested elements and add others to constitute it. One element I would definitely add would be the nanopress.

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Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

4 thoughts on “poetry contests or a 10-year apprenticeship?”

  1. Artistic merit has nothing to do with how earnestly we “support” poetry. In fact some of the most boring poetry is produced by the art’s most enthusiastic cheerleaders.

  2. Hey Rose, great to hear from you! One could argue that the process of ‘supporting’ poetry is a technical apprenticeship that has the triple merit of advancing the poet’s poetic understanding, her pobiz (political) understanding and building her poetic reputation, but yes, you’re right: these three elements should be building on an original talent/gift for poetry (without which we are not, in any case, talking about “a poet”).

  3. It’s true that if you start out with no clue, you can learn things from your fellow poets. Independence is also important though. Don’t know if you’ve seen this essay by Kay Ryan from a few years ago but it made me smile. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/article.html?id=171211

    Many would agree with you about that last part too. Personally I don’t see why the word “poet” should be construed to mean only talented poets. There have always been plenty of poets with no talent, and there always will be. But I seem to be in the minority on that.

    1. “The more I think about it, the more oppressed I feel—so many of us writing books of poetry, with or without *arc*. How in the world can I feel really, really special? No, I think poets should take the lesson of the great aromatic eucalyptus tree and poison the soil beneath us.”

      Too funny! She seems to be the introverted type who is drained, not energized, by face-to-face interactions. I’m in that group too, which is why I would want to amend the conditions of apprenticeship listed in the original article we’re discussing, to reduce that kind of interaction with fellow poets. But other, equally useful, kinds of poet-to-poet interaction are widely available today. All hail the internet!

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