This is pretty much only partly about the poetry contest, and a lot more about how every so often, something happens that lets me know I am actually healing.
I haven't written much lately - I journal, but not even a lot of that. Writing is complicated and messy for me right now, and while I miss it desperately, I know that this season will not last, and one day I will write again. However, last fall I had the great good fortune to attend a workshop held by Malcolm Guite, and over the course of the day, I challenged myself to write a rhymed, metrical terza rima beginning with a first line of Malcolm's that resonates with me deeply. ("Begin the song exactly where you are.") I rose to the challenge, and after a bit of tweaking, liked the finished (ha. Poetry is NEVER finished.) so much that I sent it in to the yearly contest at www.utmostchristianwriters.com. I am always happy to support the work that Utmost is doing.
I've entered this contest before. In April of 2008, I blogged about that year's contest. I placed 19th that year, I think, and if I'm remembering the numbers correctly, that was the top 5 or 10% of total entries. I was disappointed. Here's what I had to say:
"I was disappointed. Also rather annoyed at
myself for being disappointed, but disappointed nonetheless. And frustrated. I
think that I can see the difference between my poetry and the top prizewinners
but I don't know how to bridge that gap. As I was hiding in the bathroom trying
to figure out what was SO WRONG with just wanting to be the BEST, this question
slipped quietly into my mind.
"Why do you want to be the best?"
I'm a Christian. I know all the right answers. To
give glory to God. To use the gift I've been given. To strive for excellence.
"We are called to excellence", I have spouted many many times.
Those weren't my answers. They weren't even on my list of answers. The answers
rose like monsters from the murk. Because I am smart. I am not as good
looking as my brother or as funny as my brother but I am smart. Because my dad
won't mind that I'm fat if I'm the best in the class. Smart is who I am, and if
I'm first, I'm the smartest."
This year, my poem recieved an Honourable Mention. And it deserved it - it's a good poem, technically demanding, and fairly well executed. There are a few lines that aren't quite as clearly evocative as they could be, but it ends well, and redemptively.
But did you notice the difference in my phrasing? In 2008, I said "I placed 19th." This year, I said "My poem ..."
As with other year's, I am reading the poems that placed higher (three rousing cheers for my dear friend Ellen Gray and her poem!) and thinking about the judging process but this time? for the first time that I can remember? It's not about me. It's about the work, which is both me and not me, but praise for my poetry is simply that, praise for my poetry. It says nothing about my worth as a person.
And I believe that organically, immediately, without having to think about it now.
Such a deep deep blessing.