Friday, July 01, 2005

Maybe If They Just Read More?

In P&W's "The Contester" column, Kevin Larimer talks about fairness in the aftermath of the fall of Foetry. Being a bookless novice, I know I'm an underinformed opinion on this, but there's a critical point here that I haven't seen get much airtime: Judges are more likely to prefer poetry that adheres to influences they value, no? Consider the Best American Poetry series. Sure many of the names remain the same, but you can see the links between the poetic "style", if you will, of the editor and that of those appearing for the first or second time.

So why are we surprised that even in blind judgings there would be stylistic and experiencial links between judges and their students? I know that I've entered contests because I felt a particular affinity or respect for a certain judge. And I know that there are some fine poets whose work I admire who'd think mine was simple and boring, and frankly I wouldn't submit for their judgment.

I guess my point is this issue is more compliated than a set of guidelines from CLMP can cure. As long as judges show preference for the work closest to their own, the appearance of conflict is inevitable. Which is why I find Ron Silliman's post today so very interesting, reaching as it does into a school of poetry he dislikes to find a poet whose practice in that school he does like. If you separate the skill from the experience, create objectivity based on construction and craft, the value of similarity would diminish, no? Am I way off base?

Openness is of more value than rules. Rules without openness will be without impact.

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