A Suitable Occupation for a Wet Week – the 2013 Takahe poetry comp

After a couple of weeks where the weather has been glorious and my garden has gone berserk, winter has paid us a return visit. Rain, sleet, wind, murk, yuck. Lousy for gardening: good for writing. Better still for judging the 2013 Takahe poetry competition.

The bundle!.jpgThe bundle arrived this morning. 311 poems, to be whittled down to a winner, a second place, and two runners-up. I thought it might be mildly interesting to post progress reports as I go, much as I did for the 2011 NZPS haiku comp.

Today I’ll give all of the entries a first read-through. Past experience has taught me that more than fifty or so at a sitting makes it hard to keep things straight in my mind. (And the slight lurgy I have at the moment means my concentration is good for short bursts only.) In an ideal world, every poem would be read with total attention. But as cloning and time travel haven’t yet reached the giddy heights promised in the science fiction of my childhood, the best I can do is do it in short batches, take frequent breaks, and make sure I read each poem at least three times.

One trick I heard of since the NZPS judging is to make sure I mix them up, so that I don’t read poems in the same order, or two poems together more than once. I’m also experimenting with using a standing desk – those who’ve been to my editing workshops might remember one of my suggestions for making editing easier is to change the physical as well as emotional context. My standing desk is very complicated: a trolley table, a box, a yoga brick, a spare shelf, and a roll of non-slip matting. See for yourself:


Yep, no expense spared. Will it make any difference? Don’t know. It won’t be the only way I do things, and I will make sure every poem gets read in the same physical context (alert at my standing desk; sprawled on the couch; sitting at my newly-tidied computer desk in the study) so if something physical has a negative (or positive) impact on the way I read, it will be equally shared by all entries.

The standard of the poems that have won this competition in the past has been very high. So here I am, obliged to sit inside, in the warmth, and read through over three hundred poems. For which I will be paid.

Damn, it’s a hard life.

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