I’ve entered a handful of poetry contests in the past and when none of these contests recognized my budding promise, I submitted my work to vanity presses, where I paid other people to not read my poems.
Suffice to say I’ve never encountered a more interesting or eccentric poetry contest than this one recently posted to Craigslist, in which an anonymous benefactor is awarding $10,000 to a promising poet, who has to submit to a job interview and essentially prove they need the money.
Submissions are to be made via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) by July 19th and should include the poem, the background of the poet/applicant, and descriptions of why you want this grant as well as, if you were selected, how you would use the funds.
The benefactor will select the 10 most intriguing poems and will meet with the writers by the end of July.
The main consideration is that the poem be the best. The secondary consideration will be someone's need. A letter or note submitted could also have some weight.
It’s been a while since I harbored any notions of being a poet, but this posting definitely piqued my curiosity, in part because this benefactor sounds like someone who’d be played by Anthony Hopkins or Dame Judi Dench in a film adaptation.
“As background, I come from a very humble beginning and feel very fortunate that at this point in my life I am able to give back," the benefactor wrote in the ad. "I currently support a number of music and art institutions in NYC but feel that this grant is a more direct way of making a difference in the life of one aspiring poet. I am neither a poet nor a writer but appreciate poetry, music, and art.”
I reached out to this benefactor via e-mail, hoping to learn some more about their background and their quest to find a poet of promise.
They politely declined, writing,
Thank you but I am interested in remaining anonymous. I believe that true 'giving' focuses on the cause and the recipient not the donor. Too many charities today are fixated on the charity event, honoring the donor, celebrating the gift. I hope you understand and respect our wishes."
I do. And I also know I could really use $10,000 and can definitely prove it in a one-on-one interview. Time to go over my rhyme schemes.
Good luck to all you other aspiring poets.