Saturday, July 25, 2015

Judging April

Backing up a bit in time for this post. As poetry fans know, April is not only the cruelest month, it's also National Poetry Month. I'm not sure how those two intersect, but I'm pretty sure there has to be a connection. April is also the Writers' Digest Poetic Asides PAD (Poem-a-Day) Challenge. Every day, Robert Lee Brewer, the editor of the Poetic Asides blog (and the similarly named column in Writers' Digest magazine) posts a prompt to inspire the day's poems from his readers which they then post in the comments section of the blog.

What happens to all of these poems? Selected poems from each day are compiled into an annual chapbook. Each day's submissions are judged by Robert and a few guest judges, but with the number of responses he gets each day, this year he added an additional group of preliminary judges to help with the volume. The PAD challenge has come to be a really important tool for my writing each year, pushing me to spit out a full poem each day. The poem may not be great, it might even be a complete wreck, but by the end of the month I have a nice big stack of potential (I actually had to correct a typo just now when I wrote that as "poetential" which may actually be a more apt term. Well, if it was one.) poems that usually keep me busy for months beyond. So, when I heard he was looking for preliminary judges, I jumped at the opportunity to send him my C.V. and was thrilled to be selected to help.

I anxiously awaited receiving my set of poems, having been told that I would be assigned a day of the month and sent the poems from that day's comments section. Finally around mid-May I saw the email in my account and opened it with great enthusiasm to find almost 900 posted poems to read that were ultimately to be whittled down to 50 to then pass on to the final judges. The topic that day was "love" which is a subject I'm enthusiastic about, so all seemed optimal to get to read these poems leisurely over the next few months, what with the August deadline and everything.

Ha. Not quite. I clearly misunderstood. The deadline was just a few days away and I was leaving for the Caribbean the next morning. Nonetheless, I made the deadline. Over the next few days, I read each poem carefully, frequently more than once, and stayed up almost all night the night before to make sure my decisions were good ones. In case you haven't quite grasped my love for poetry, here's an illustration. In choosing between poetry and this:

I chose poetry.