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You Do It Because You Love It
by S.A. Griffin
 Related Articles
• “A Word to the Wise” from Kurt Heintz on entering your poems in competition
• Links to online poetry contests
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Excellent Writing & Publishing Poetry FAQ, from the Academy of American Poets
• Literary Contest Caution, a collection of links & articles on scams to avoid, from Charlie Hughes at Wind Publications
• Test Kit for scams, from The Writer’s Center

Last summer we offered our friend Kurt Heintzword to the wise on choosing where to enter your poems in competition. The idea of competition in poetry remains a perennial debate topic in all kinds of poetic communities, from the small chapbook presses to the slam to the big name prizes -- not to speak of the ongoing arguments about how competitions are administered, contest entry fees, etc. The subject arises regularly in the online poetry discussion lists, and we think our friend S.A. Griffin’s recent comments on the PoetsAllOver mailing list at Yahoo are worth rereading for a perspective on why we keep doing this art, making poems.

Margy Snyder & Bob Holman

It’s been an interesting debate, to say the least. I personally am completely opposed to fees and especially “contests” whether in print or performance. Never have and never will believe in subjecting the muse to “contest.” As a long time editor, publisher, performer, producer and writer of poetry and performance, I have cultivated these opinions through experience as well as personal p.o.v. It is all completely subjective, to say the very least.

Ultimately, we all make our way. When I was involved in publishing a magazine (or zine) the money came from ads, sales and, as always, out of pocket. The zines almost always lost money -- I went into it knowing as much. The chapbooks/books always broke even or made money. I have been lucky. It does take some time to recoup expenses -- sometimes years -- but I have never asked for money from anyone to create anything. I personally don’t believe in it. I do, though, understand why it happens. I must say that it has been my experience that it is mostly on the level of scam, a way for somebody to slack off of the need of others.

In the end, it is completely up to the individual whether they do or don’t. I also have been fortunate enough to make my living as an actor these past 24 years. The same holds true for that profession/craft: you don’t pay to play, although many do and it is almost always a scam. There is presently a somewhat heated debate in the entertainment industry regarding such practices as casting directors making thousands of dollars off of out-of-work and novice actors trying to get work any way they can. The poet’s plight is much the same with much the same results. Very few benefit except the “gatekeepers” asking for the money.

I have been a working actor and poet for going on 25 years, so I do know something of what I am talking about. In the end, no matter how you cut it, practicing your art & getting it seen is always ongoing, hard work. The rewards are often little or nil. You do it because you want to, because you love it. I have always done it because I always felt it was the only choice for me, and it has paid off. I’m not well wired for the 9-5. Hopefully, my luck will continue to hold.

To each his or her own.


S.A. Griffin is a Los Angeles poet, actor, publisher & editor who feels “lucky to have been involved in many poetry adventures, on the road and off.” The Lost Tribe, The Carma Bums & White Trash Apocalypse are among the poetry performance ensembles you can read about at his Web site, “The Open Ended It.”

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