I’ve entered a few writing contests over the years (“a few?” my inner self snorts “Too many!”) and I keep losing them and/or placing just short of the money, most probably due to
my appalling punctuation habits and unfortunate use of the word, snorts, which is really only proper in dragon stories or those involving pigs, I guess.
But I haven’t entered the “worst opening line” contest or this latest one, which tickles my fancy in so many ways : The Vogon Poetry Slam held in BC recently. Those of you familiar with the wonderful Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams will remember this wonderful scene of torture, where our fearless heroes are tied to rocks and tortured by the Vogons reading them horrible horrible poetry – such excrescences that they often kill their prisoners with them.
Having sat through some very mixed poetry readings in my time, this scene seems perfectly realistic. There is really nothing worse than listening to bad poetry. It’s a bit like looking at weird modern art – the kind like the three fluorescent light bulbs piece hanging in the National Gallery. That’s all it is. Three lit long bulbs.
You see, with that sort of art, or bad poetry, you can’t help but think to yourself that perhaps it’s your fault, you just aren’t getting it, you aren’t deep enough to grasp the essential metaphysics of the piece. You feel at once inadequate and irritable, frustrated and feeble. Then you get angry and are forced to stomp off, flinging your arms about. Or, if you are a Vogon, vomit. If you are a Vogon prisoner, lose consciousness. I’ve felt all three looking at the bulb thing.
The thing about these writing and other contests, though, is that they have several benefits:
a. they give you a deadline
b. they give you feedback
c. they give you an opportunity to write something you otherwise might not.
Right now I am trying to write an entry for an online writer’s group – they do monthly challenges and I’m a newbie, so I feel the responsibility to write something stupendous. We have to write a story about some blonde Jennifer woman splashing water off a dock somewhere. The scene is bucolic, boring as fluorescent tube lights. Sunlight sparkles on the water. The woman is smiling, holding her sandals in her hand, posing like a model in a Country Homes ad. It tempts me to write florid, bad poetry. Or some dreadfully gothic mystery story.