The Value of Competition

A Message from the President

Greetings from the Memphis Metro,

It has been a busy month for me. I have added to my resume: in addition to Preacher, Painter, Poet and Pet Sitter, I am now a Pumpkin Patch Proprietor. It has been a lot of fun seeing little kids with their parents and grandparents coming out in the beautiful autumn weather, and I have been blessed to have sold several of my books and paintings while there. 

It has been busy, but I always make time for the PST members-only contests. For me, these monthly contests are the backbone of PST. In Kentucky, their society does a great job with monthly Zoom poetry readings. Mississippi society branches have great turnouts at monthly meetings on the coast, in Natchez and in the capital area around Jackson. The North branch, spread out over the north half of Mississippi, effectively moves quarterly meetings to different areas to involve the entire region.

PST holds monthly Zoom meetings to provide access across the state. With the help of our regional connections committee, we no doubt will be back up to speed with regional (and in-person) events soon. But beyond meetings, our contests are a long held tradition that can bind us. What’s more, they add value to our society and to each of us as poets.

I am asking for more participation in our contests. While low entries give participants a better chance of being awarded prizes, I know we can do more and better. As a poet who likes attention, I like winning prizes, but I’d rather have more competitors push me out of the rankings. As I see it, more competition in our contests will bring three major benefits to our society:

  1. Improve overall quality of our contests and anthology. It does not take a statistical expert to figure out that the best poem of 4 will not usually be up to the standards of the best out of 20, 50 or more. The better our first-place winners are, the better our anthology will be. Imagine the day teachers buy Tennessee Voices and tell their students, “This is how it’s done!” You can be part of this gift to educators and future poets.
  2. Enhance PST’s prestige and the value of our contests. The more entries each month, the more prestige our contests will carry. If our contests have three prizes, three honorable mentions and seven entries, they may be perceived as having less value. Part of the value for us as writers is gaining practice with different forms and subjects than we might normally explore. And you just might win and get published!
  3. Enhance our image nationally. A good reputation can help our society grow. As an NFSPS member, we get national exposure. Our contests influence how NFSPS members and poets across the nation view our society. Those among the PST membership serving in positions with NFSPS are a testimony to the respect we have across the country—a respect that we have earned and must work to maintain. We will do this by taking Calvin Ross’ words to heart, “Onward and Upward!” 

Please, everyone, make contests a priority. If PST’s standing as a society is not important to you, then do it to grow as a poet. Which really is the same thing: if we are each better, won’t that make PST better? If something is holding you back from participating, reach out to me or any other PST leader. We care about you as a person and as a poet and are here to provide support and opportunities to learn and grow.

When I show up at a future NSFPs convention, I want folks to come up to me and say, “I know about your contests.” Together, we can make this a reality.

Bill Hill

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