Contest: Hollis Summers Poetry Prize 2009

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Tis' the season.

Announcements for this round of contests are beginning to fill my snail mail mailbox, and yesterday brought a call for manuscripts for the 2009 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize.

The fee is $20.00, and the prize is $1,000--all things considered, not too bad.

However, their statement on judging should be cause for concern (the bold font has been added for emphasis):
Previous judges include: David Lehman, Mary Kinzie, David Yezzi, James Cummins, Alan Shapiro, Rachel Hadas, Carolyn Kizer, Eavan Boland, Andrew Hudgins, Louis Simpson, and Miller Williams. The final judge for the competition will be announced when the winner is named in April. Individual criticism of manuscripts cannot be given.
Based on that policy, I would not recommend this contest (See Ideal Guideline #1).

If the final judge is kept a secret, how can an entrant know whether or not he/she knows the judge?

What if it turns out the entrant has won and he/she turns out to be a student or even relative of the judge? Will the prize still be awarded to that person?

Also, if the judge recognizes the entrant's work and based on that information eliminates the entrant's manuscript, will the entrant receive a fee refund?

Potential entrants might do well to ask these questions before submitting to the Hollis Summers contest. Their website does not offer much more in the way of guidelines, so you might try their contact page.


  1. I am at a loss. What is this obsession with contests? Don’t you people ever learn? Is this like the American Idol of Poetry or something?
    Why don’t you just publish your work and let the chips fall where they may? The cream will rise to the top eventually.

    Oh, yeah…it’s the fame thing again, isn’t it?

  2. Gary,

    Exactly. "Why this obsession with contests?"

    Look around you, Gary. You are not a poet unless you've won a 'contest,' and many of them are not fair contests--they raise money so friends can publish each other, win prizes from each other, get teaching jobs, get anthologized, 'judge' each other, which leads to a climate of blurbing and praising and fear of honest Criticism--which is why the non-specialist pays no attention to poetry, which cuts it off from the mainstream culture, which feeds the downward cycle of the whole enterprise.

    Unfortunately, the cream does NOT rise to the top, because there's too much crap to wade through and if that crap is getting prizes, it will only get worse.

    What's wrong with a little consumer advocacy? Why does it bug you so much?

  3. Are scraps of papyrus and linen a book or not?

    Are manuscripts copied by scribes for hundreds of years reprints?

    Immortality is found in the words, not on the paper.

  4. Oops. Wrong thread. :-)

    I meant to say:

    Poetry is about communication, not recognition. 'Consumer advocacy'? You mean 'peer admiration', don't you? Do the average people of the world give a fig about who won what prize?

    I write for Uncle Lyle. So should you.

  5. trying to debate on the internet is like

  6. standing on the station platform having

  7. a conversation with someone passing by

  8. Gary,

    Why is arguing on the internet difficult?

    Where is it easier?

    "Communication, not recognition." Yea, sure it's about communication, but that's a broad brush. Obviously, 'recognition' is what makes wider 'communication' possible. If this was all about 'communicating to Uncle Lyle over dinner, then we all could all pack up and go home; we wouldn't need poetry or books or any of it. It sounds to me like you're being intentionally obtuse.

  9. First, Uncle Lyle actually reads BOOKS. Not talking Thanksgiving dinner here.

    Secondly, obtuse means dull. Did you mean abstruse? If so, well, yeah...I'm a poet, right?

  10. gary,

    Obtuse means 'thick' or 'slow at understanding.'

    Oh yea, I did mean obtuse.

    You said 'communication.' Conversation at Thanksgiving is 'communication.' 'Books' require 'recognition' to be effective. So, yea, 'recognition' is part of the equation, not merely 'communication.'

    Are you still at a loss?

    This might help you. Dogs can 'communicate' with humans, but if a dog doesn't 'recognize' his master, the pup will be lost!

  11. Books require only reading to be effective.You will learn someday what communication is. What I just read sure ain't it.

    If I was Dylan Thomas I'd say: "Fuck you!"

    Unfortunatley, I'm just me, so I'll say: La de da.

  12. 'Unfortunately', that is.

    Isn't this fun? This word stuff, I mean.

  13. Gary,

    Thank goodness you're not Dylan Thomas!

    I would have been cussed!

    And severely!

    "La de da?"

    "La de da" to you, sir.

    If it's words you want, you shall have them!


  14. Gary,
    Is this really you speaking here? Because if it is I was certainly wrong to ask your forgiveness earlier---our original spat was bang on.

    And I also remember your first words on the site--and that I tried to help you overcome then.

    What a shock to find out that you just want to roughhouse after all. And you've been here for awhile too, and I have just stood up for you elsewhere, explaining that your roughhouse was genius!

    Well. you're not using it to any positive effect that I can see here, and I'm beginning to wonder why you bother.

    So which Gary is it going to be, then? Which one can we build on?


  15. You're no fun at all, Christopher.

    Happy Bloomsday.

  16. "The wine urges me on, the bewitching wine, which sets even a wise man to singing and to laughing gently and rouses him up to dance and brings forth words which were better unspoken."

    - Homer

    Tomorrow I'll be sober but you still wont be any fun.

  17. Hangover is a nightmare from which I'm trying to awake.

    History is a hangover I'm trying to sleep off.

    Bloomsbury is a pretence I'm trying to throw off.

  18. Bloomsday (think James Joyce), not Bloomsbury.

  19. "History is a nightmare, from which I'm trying to awake" --James Joyce

    The modernist Bloomsbury Circle, which included Pound and Eliot as American members, helped launch the career of James Joyce.

  20. Thank you.

    It's hard to know who you're replying to and what they meant.

    I didn't catch the reference, but I swore off Joyce 30 years ago.

    I just like the pub crawls.

  21. Oh, bugger off.

    Oops. I promised I'd behave. Sorry.

  22. "Hangover is a nightmare from which I'm trying to awake.

    History is a hangover I'm trying to sleep off.

    Bloomsbury is a pretence I'm trying to throw off."

    Pretty clever, actually.


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