The Goodness of Contests by Fred Wilbur

Photo of rows of different colors of thread
Photo by Fred Wilbur

Life should not be a contest, but it is. This statement seems terribly bleak, “survival of the fittest,” dystopian, shoot-‘em-up violent and down-right unappealing, but countering this notion, contests can be good things. There are team competitions, matches between two individuals, and self-challenging ‘contests.’

Professional sports teams immediately come to mind. They are primarily entertainment, but they illustrate coordination, cooperation, cohesion among members of the team. Such events promote social camaraderie and civic pride (forgetting the celebratory riots which sometimes follow.)

Amateur sport is less about entertainment and more about learning to be a team player, to enjoy the game as a game (though we hear about the pressure parents put on their kids and/or game officials.) There are, however, all sorts of other team competitions: academic quizzes, reality TV shows, high school debates, and perhaps neighborhood holiday house decorating.

The team competition is condensed in matches between two contestants, but in all ‘opponent’ contests there is the notion of winners and losers: concepts which can pull us back to the dark side of life. The enlightened attitude to this ‘imbalance’ is compassion, dignity, and equanimity, summed up in the idea of good sportsmanship. Winners have no right to brag or bully (showing their own weakness), while losers should not complain or lament their status, but take it as an inspiration to do better next time.

But it is the self-challenging ‘contests’ which interests us here. Though team and two person competitions may have satisfactions and a sense of accomplishment, these don’t compare to one’s self-improvement: learning a foreign language, a new piano piece, or perhaps doing a few more push-ups or holding a yoga pose a bit longer, or thinking of the Wordle word for the day.

Poetry is not a team sport, but (chancing a cliché) depends on the individual’s skill. The self-imposed ‘contest’ is in the constant refining of that skill.

So, it is in this spirit of sportsmanship, Streetlight Magazine announces its annual poetry contest. Please note that this year the schedule for submission has shifted to earlier in the year. Submissions open today, April 8th, and ends July 1st, with announcement of the editors’ choice on July 15th. This long submission period should be enough time to give us your “personal best.” Please consult the guidelines.

Sharon Ackerman and myself, as co-editors of poetry, will independently read the anonymous entries. Only after the closing date will we consult each other and determine by mutual agreement which poems are compelling, have an ‘authentic’ voice, and use language to its fullest. Poetry is an art of ideas and/ or feelings using language. We want poets to challenge themselves to create the best expression of those ideas or feelings.

We are not partial to any one style or form, any cultural/political point of view, or, indeed, any one logic, but we enjoy playfulness, quirky characters, some mystery, but above all the fulfillment of the intention of the piece. The hope is that simply submitting to our contest will prompt some introspection or self-critique. Everyone is a ‘winner’ to us. We look forward to reading many sincere efforts: the challenge for us will be deciding amongst these many fine poems.

Frederick Wilbur
Frederick Wilbur has authored three books on architectural and decorative woodcarving. His poetry collections are As Pus Floats the Splinter Out and Conjugation of Perhaps. His work has appeared in many print and on-line reviews including Shenandoah, The Atlanta Review, The Comstock Review, The Dalhousie Review, The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, One Art, and New Verse News. He has also written The Nelson County Garden Club: The First Fifty Years, 1935-1985.

Follow us!
Share this post with your friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *