Jonathan Humble, Features Writer

Poetry And The Addicted Serial Submitter

Back in 1967, the Milk Marketing Board ran a competition to promote their dairy products. Pictures had to be sent from entrants depicting the wholesome quality of milk, cheese and/or eggs. My dad, a milkman working for the Co-operative, brought an entry form home and at six years old, I set about producing my own masterpiece. In the end, I drew a picture of him going to work on a motorised egg underneath the borrowed heading ‘Go To Work On An Egg’. I drew the picture without a thought of winning. I drew it because I liked drawing and because I loved my dad.

I won.

In a couple of weeks, I was the proud owner of a duffle bag emblazoned with the Milk Marketing Board logo.

Well, it’s all been downhill from then on.

Every competition I’ve entered since, in my own mind I’m a contender. I imagine picking up the prize while I’m in the process of creating the entry or performing the piece. Writing, singing, being part of a team in football or rugby, playing squash … whatever, it’s not done in innocence or for the pure love of the activity; it’s corrupted by the idea of the adulation and elevated status when I win.

I am, as you see, a flawed person. I have decided I must be addicted. I crave the thrill of expectation. I really shouldn’t take part in competitions. This also comes through when playing cards, board games or involvement in trivia quizzes which invariably end up in dispute and the accusation that ‘someone is taking it all a little too seriously’.

So, imagine what I’m like when faced with poetry competitions.

I can rationalise the whole thing in my mind: the odds stacked against me, the subjective nature of the judging process, the possibility my poem might get stuck down the side of the administrator’s sofa while they’re sifting through the massive pile before them, the nagging, uneasy feeling that what I’m writing is actually a pile of shite …

It is a similar situation when sending poetry off to editors of journals, magazines or those in search of material to add to anthologies. After I’ve let the creative daughters of Mnemosyne descend and poke me with their spears, It’s then all about the importance of having the work appear in publications. I suppose it shouldn’t be, but for me, having something upon which I’ve spent blood, sweat and tears along with the development of RSI in my index fingers and thumbs, to appear in a magazine, journal or anthology is massively gratifying. There is a rush of endolphins (sic), the alpha and beta brainwaves go mad and the day skips lightly by when an acceptance e-mail flutters and lands, butterfly-like, upon my screen. However, these occasions are outnumbered by the times when the rejection note drops like a lump of unspeakable stuff on the carpet, the endolphins (still sic) get caught in the tuna nets and the omega brainwaves stomp all over the daisies.

And yet …

I still find them very hard to resist, harbouring the totally unreasonable feeling that I’m in with a chance as I blow the entrance fee through my paypal account or pour my soul into a poem destined to end up in some slush pile.

Ridiculously, it’s at times like this when I feel sorry for the editors who have to send these notices. Some of them, I believe, are genuinely burdened by the image of the rejected poet, weeping in his garret, lit candle spluttering its last, his laudanum bottle empty and abandoned by his chaise longue, his quill broken and the bailiffs/landlord/Sky rental people banging on the door, demanding payment for something or other. To all those lovely angst-ridden folk who find themselves worrying about my state of mind when my poetry doesn’t fit the bill, and who send personal messages of encouragement, please be assured, I understand and I still think you’re all super.

And to any others who couldn’t give two hoots when sending out mass form rejection slips that don’t even acknowledge my name or the poem I sent … I think you’re super too, I forgive you and will you please consider these three poems which might just be right for your esteemed publication?

So I suspect I will get seduced by the lure once again when another competition surfaces or a new submission window opens for that magazine in which I’ve always wanted to be published. Besides, I definitely need a new duffle bag; this one is now showing severe signs of wear and tear.

Copenhagen Interpretation Of E-mails
By Jonathan Humble (after Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr)

I read somewhere, at sometime,
that everything and nothing exists
outside the space you’re placed.

Closed doors are quantum barriers
separating the countless possibilities
of constantly branching parallel universes.

Facts on the outsides of rooms are blurred,
until they are moved into, amongst and beyond
and created through observation.

So, ignoring Newtonian classical notions,
where time, space and rejection are absolute,
with eyes shut, many hands over multiple ears,

imagining one liquid crystal screen,
focusing on one mouse click outside this head,
what I hope to see are these words:

Thank you for your poetry submission.
We enjoyed The Copenhagen Interpretation
and would like to publish it in the next issue of

*** insert name of publication here ***