Thursday, 27 January 2011

Farewell to the 8,000

This is the last time I blog about this because tomorrow the judges of the National Poetry Competition meet to decide winners etc, so from then on in it will be the occasional reflection on the experience.

In order to prepare for the meeting I look at the 140 odd poems on the long list again and having marked them once, mark them again. I try to put the sheets into mark order, then make a spreadsheet to enter every poem, with number (since the writers are anonymous), title of poem, whether the poem was my choice or of one of the others (I don't know which of the other two, the percentage mark and a note or two if necessary.

In so doing I change my mind over a few of the poems again, re-mark, and reorder the spreadsheet. I suppose I could carry on doing this for the rest of my life. I don't mind doing the fiddly business. It is a little like I imagine knitting might have been for some women. It keeps the fingers busy and produces something tidy and useful if unspectacular. My spreadsheet table is the the equivalent of a pair of warm socks. This is what I have been doing all day, hardly stirring from my desk.

The mechanics of thinking are often a way of avoiding more thinking. The typing in of letters and figures, the arranging of rows and columns, would be hell in eternity, but as necessary pabulum for a tired brain, it works a treat. Now when I arrive tomorrow I won't be scrambling after lost pieces of paper, and the meeting will be shorter, and all shall be well, all manner of thing shall be well.

I have three current favourite political bloggers, Norm, Plump and Bob all offering something of interest.

Tomorrow to London again for all the above. Good luck to whoever emerges as winner, runner up or commended. I am going to commend a lot of people.


Gwilym Williams said...

There's a story (don't know if it's true) of how Beethoven had composed a new piano concerto and arrived in at the concert hall to play it and then at the last minute asked some musician or other who happened to be there to turn over the pages of music for him. This person, whoever it was, agreed and so the piano concert commenced. The problem was that there was more or less nothing written on the sheets (just a scribble here there as was Beethoven's way) but anyway they are today recorded by Sir Alfred Brendle and the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Sir Simon Rattle and every nuance is known! Reams of paper, George. What is it? Go with your gut feeling - that's what I say. But then who am I?

Much good luck!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank you for your words on the judging process, which are a great comfort. It helps to know a little about how you work, the sheer quantity of poems, and the dilemmas you face. It is also good to hear that the poems are being judged with such honesty, generosity and warmth. Most of us won't make it through the eye of the needle, but your blog has helped to soften and add nuance to that hard fact. :-)

Mark Granier said...

I second what anon said. Good to know there's someone out there who gives the process such thought and care.

George S said...

Oh, all three of us took great care. I've not yet worked with a judge of anything that hasn't. A day of warm passionate advocacies and hard questions.