I just entered my first poetry competition since I was in school and I am terrified. This is serious shit, a national-level competition, and the idea that my best works that I have spent years developing might be rejected is traumatic. I cannot imagine writing a better poem or developing a stronger style than what I have worked to create here – these are poems that have occupied months of mind space, have pages on pages of notes where I have refined them, and are taken from the mariana trenches of my emotions. I can deal with people not liking them, but the idea that they are not Objectively Quite Good is brutal. Jesus fuck, it was hard enough to show my friends, and now my creative future is in the hands of one lady and her team.
I actually only had two poems that I’d prepared for the competition, so I went through the part-ready collection I am putting together (my friend is illustrating it – I’m so excited) and even older ones to find a third. It was quite nice, actually, to read back over some old poems (two complete collections and many, many others – apparently I had incredible word diarrhoea as a teen) and realise that, yes, they are definitely juvenilia, but they are not bad. The fact that I wrote a sonnet sequence before I was 18 is a point of pride in itself, but the fact that they are coherent and pretty is actually pretty nice. I’ve spent years with these in the bottom of a very messy drawer (metaphorically and literally – there is a box of notebooks and tiny scraps of paper at my parents’ house that remains the most valuable and least organised thing I own), and it’s nice to know that whilst they don’t have the voice I have worked hard on, they do have a voice that is recognisably mine; whilst they are naïve, they do attempt to grapple with and bring perspective to big themes. They definitely belong in the past, but they definitely don’t belong in the fire. I might mine them, and rewrite a few.
Anyway, yes. Keep your fingers and your toes crossed for me and my humble, fragile creative ego. Further news in August, and a whole collection in beautiful hardback coming soon(ish)*.
*probably not soon. It’s been 2-3 years already and we’re not yet halfway through.