One of the desperate things that poets do to earn a crust is enter competitions. In my case, this normally incurs costs rather than accumulating cash. Despite being well aware of the strength of the competition and the meagreness of my unedited rants, I still tend to chance my arm, reminding myself that Bukowski got nowhere until he was well into middle age and Maeve Binchy was something like 44 when her first novel was published.
So I decided that despite having to miss the X Factor, I’d enter the Baffle Bard Poetry Competition in the great metropolis of Loughrea, Co.
Galway (population about 4,000).
I’d entered a couple of times before, so I knew the score. There’s a qualifier on the Saturday and if you get through, you perform in the final on the Sunday. It’s a local bash and the prize is anybody’s (as long as you come from Loughrea, are related to somebody on the committee and write in rhyming couplets). But still, I thought, you never know, and in fairness, a friend of mine won it a few years ago and he’s from two townlands away. Besides, it’s a great night out. You get to hear poems from the brilliant to the bizarre. You even get to hear poems that are not poems if you know what I mean. For some, it’s their first ever time to read a poem, and then there are the pure brilliant, like myself (in a few years).
Of course, lots of petrol and drink money later, the results are announced, and I’m not in the top three cash prize winning poems. The two judges go through each poem like school teachers might before they announce the winners. Then the man whose wife is on the committee goes up and gets first prize for his ditty about the locals and the theme of the competition and a few more rhyming couplets thrown in for good measure. We all smile and clap and talk about how great his poem is and about isn’t it great that there's always poetry to fall back on when the rest of the country is falling apart, what with all the corrupt politicians and bankers and clergymen and all that.
Co-incidentally, second prize goes to a local girl but the third prize goes to the mate of mine from a few townlands away who won it a few years ago.
Then something strange happened. My name got called out as the winner of the ‘peoples choice’ award. All of the members of the audience get to vote for their favourite, and this year they went foreign and picked me!
So now, despite being a lot more broke than I was at the start of the weekend, I do have an empty vase with ‘Baffle 2010 – Peoples Choice’ engraved on it, and when you think of it, this vase will be worth a small fortune when I’m a famous writer (in a few years).
Besides, considering that I write for people, surely getting the peoples voice is better than what the judges think. After all, didn’t Jedward do great on X Factor even though Simon Cowell hated them? Not that I'm sour grapes or anything, God no.
There was just one thing though, that didn’t figure. One of the judges, Maureen Gallagher, sparked local controversy a few years ago in a letter to the Galway Advertiser suggesting that ‘Slam poetry is a tired art form’ while also stating that her vote on poetry goes with Todd Swift, who claims it to be 'the last resort of the failed comedian.' I decided that seeing as the theme for this year was ‘Off The Rails’, might it have been possible that the committee had hired this lady to judge the competition in fitting with the theme, was there someone who felt that judging bardic poetry slams was the last resort of a failed poet?
That said though, there were two judges, the other one being Martin Dyar, an award winning poet who’s grandfather was the local doctor in the town for years. So there you go.
Well, bottom line is that the judges did nae like me but the people did. It leaves me wondering whose opinion is to be trusted: probably only my own at the end of the day. So for what it’s worth, make your own judgements folks and if you like it, don’t forget to support poetry by throwing me a few coins via the ‘donate’ button.
The piece is dedicated to all those beautiful, skinny rich women who I aspire to be like, and is called: ‘You Bitches.’
You bitches: smug on the road in your off the road SUV.
Four wheel drive obscenities – for what?
To glide you across tar macadam smooth as your paralysed Botox smiles,
Caged-in behind electric gates and cobbled miles
Of suburban slavery as you drown
In Prada, Gucci, Dior town.
This is the greasy till revisited.
You’re a stainless steel double door fridge,
Full of food you never eat, with your size zero brain
And your holocaust waist.
The dyed blonde hair on a spray-on face.
You’re Hitler’s very dream of the perfect race.
Coffee Morning, Gym, Charity event.
Walk the Prom, run the Prom. “This place has gone off the rails!.”
Talk to Joe ‘the country’s gone mad Joe. It’s the African taxi drivers,
And scangers, and the head shops and the state of those foreigners in their mini skirts.
That’s what’s wrong with this country Joe. So take it from them Joe.
Take it from the queers and the priests and NAMA and the blacks,
And from Michael Ring Joe, for using a swear word in Dail Eireann.
But don’t take away my SUV, don’t take anything from me.
Hey you bitches, why don’t you Buy the Prom?
Extend the Prom. Cordon off the Prom.
Privatise the Prom. Members only. Members only, please.
Because come to think of it, I want to be you.
I want the bliss of no more sleepless nights
Wondering what happened to the homeless girl in
Who sold me that bracelet on the street.
And how the dried mud on her bare feet was prettier
Than the orange glow of factory tan that surrounds me.
So bring on that neo-Georgian mansion with
A bottle of gin and a glossy magazine.
I want to know which celebrity’s ass looks best
In some god awful designer dress.
I want my tragedies to be about broken fingernails.
I want to believe that the Dali Lama
Is a restaurant, where you get free poppadums.
And that the money I spend on cosmetics:
Enough to feed an African village, is not a sin:
‘It’s because I’m worth it’.
I want my wisdom to be thick as this:
‘If refugees don’t like their lot, they should go home.’
Because that would mean they’d have homes to go to.
I’d have a home to go to, and I could walk
The Prom. Run the Prom. Buy the Prom.
Privatise the Prom.
I’ve got Dior, I’ve got Prada, I’ve got Gucci
Who could ask for anything more?
I could. I could ask for a pink veloura track suit
In the autumn sales, and be just like you bitches
Gone well off the rails.