Earlier today I was here, in my room, enjoying a nice cup of tea and browsing Twitter when my Dad shouted that the postman had just been and there was something for me. That's usually a phrase that sends a chill down my spine, to be honest. If it's not the latest catalogue from The Book People, or the latest issue of United We Stand, it's probably bad news. Who do I owe money to this time? As I walked down the stairs, here's the conversation I had with my father:
"Have you entered a poetry competition?"
"What? No, of course not."
And that was the truth. I hate poetry. It's rubbish, and I hate it even more when it doesn't rhyme. There was no chance of me ever entering a poetry competition, but here was Dad handing me an envelope with "World Poetry Movement" plastered on the front of it, a message of "POSTMASTER: PLEASE RUSH! CONTEST RESULTS ENCLOSED." just above the slot where you can see the address.
AND THEN THE ENVELOPE EXPLODED!
I jest. Nothing blew up, but I was surprised to see several pieces of paper and one smaller envelope in my hand once I had ripped open the packet and wrenched out everything from inside it. (If you ever want a laugh, watch me open an envelope. I'm not one for subtlety.) Putting the other stuff down for a moment, I unfurled (great word) the letter that came with it. I'm not going to recite it all to you, but the bits in bold you're about to see are the highlights:
After carefully reading and discussing your poem,
I've not written a poem.
our Selection Committee has certified your poem as a semi-finalist in our International Open Poetry Contest. Your poem has been automatically entered into the final competition.
Very kind of you, but there's clearly a mistake here. I don't write poetry. I don't like it. Except maybe the poetry of Ogden Nash.
As a semi-finalist, you now have an excellent chance of winning one of the 116 cash or gift prizes - including the $1,000.00 Grand Prize.
Well why didn't you say?! You now have my complete attention.
And that's not all....
Imagine your poem featured on a page by itself in a beautiful coffee-table edition!
In celebration of the unique talent that you have displayed, we also wish to publish your poem in what promises to be one of the most highly regarded collections of poetry we have ever published....
STARS IN OUR HEARTS (Library of Congress ISBN 978-1-60880-123-7)
Published......Library of Congress.....unique talent........
Before going any further, Patrick, let me make one thing clear...
your poem was selected for publication, and as a contest semi-finalist, on the basis of your unique talent and artistic vision.
So not only "unique talent" but "artistic vision"! This is GREAT but, alas, it is spam. I haven't done a poem.
However, regarding the publication of your poetry, you must proofread your poem, which appears on the enclosed Artist's Release. Please carefully review your poem for typographical errors and make any necessary changes.
Alright, I'm binning this thing now, load of bollo...what?
your poem, which appears on the enclosed Artist's Release.
Hey hey hey what is going ON here?!
So I threw the letter down and scrabbled around amongst the other nonsense attached to find the "Artist's Release" form. Once I found it, I sat down on my bed and laughed. A lot.
Because many, many months ago - think it was last September - a Facebook friend had posted something on her wall which had a picture of Bill Murray attached. Now Bill Murray is, in my opinion, a genius, so it caught my eye. It was a link to a competition:
"Write a Bill Murray poem and you could win $1,000! Enter the Bill Murray Contest to win. 116 prizes to be awarded in this poetry contest."
I'm not a poet - as you might have guessed by now - but I do enjoy writing stupid little verses in the style of E.J.Thribb, the resident poet and obituarist over at 'Private Eye' magazine, so as I had nothing better to do I scribbled down a few lines of nonsense and then took a "screen grab" to show my friend. I didn't think, for one second, that I had filled in my name and address and clicked "submit", but I must have done. So, without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen I present to you my 5 minute nonsensical poem on Mr William Murray:
O Tempora! O Murray!
William James Murray!
A name never to be said in a hurry
I'd definitely buy him a curry
William James Murray.
What a man, an icon, a star!
A genius revered wide and far
He can go round in level par
And drive a sexy sports car
Lest we forget, Groundhog Day
When he always woke up, in dismay
Not once did he get stung by a ray
Lest we forget, Groundhog Day.
Now I don't want to do myself down, but if that's ever going to qualify for the final of a poetry contest then I can only assume it was the only entrant. Or...something is rotten in Denmark.
A Google search for "World Poetry Movement" was my first port of call, and it broke my heart to find that when entering those three words into the search engine, the auto-suggestion that flashes up simply says "World Poetry Movement scam". Thanks to Google, I was given a nudge in the right direction as to what all this madness is:
"A good litmus test is to just start typing World Poetry Movement into a google search page and they're already auto-suggesting you add the search term "scam" to your search.
Seems the "scam" is that about half of all entrants get published, and the only people who really buy the book are those who entered the 'contest', so you don't actually win money and end out a few bucks for buying a book of crummy poetry."
And it is crummy. The three verse poem I wrote in 5 minutes and as a joke ain't winning any awards any time soon. When I investigated the rest of the literature, I realised that chap was correct - so much of it is about buying the book. As someone else notes:
"Unfortunately, it does look like you sent your to scammers. You say you don't have to pay to be included in their book, but I'll bet they offer to sell you copies of that "finest" at what they claim is a special author's rate, but it's really a ridiculously high price for a worthless book. And if they squeeze some money out of you for the book, they'll probably be back for more. Maybe they'll offer to sell you your own poem engraved on a plaque or printed on a mouse pad. Maybe they'll invite you to pay a huge registration fee and attend a poetry convention. They won't come right out and say so (because that would be illegal), but they'll try to give you the impression that throwing all that money at them will increase your chances of winning some big prize. Don't fall for it."
Not wrong. Just look at the prices of these shitty things!
So, I'm done. I've never dreamed of being a published poet, but I feel slightly crushed by this, quite frankly. Unless...no, it's silly, but....well, let me put it this way. I have three options:
A) I throw all this nonsense in the bin and forget about it
B) I throw most of it in the bin but keep the poem and the letter for future lols
C) I tick the box telling them it's my own work and send that back to them in the provided envelope.
Because option C) isn't going to hurt, right? I'm not giving them any money, and the immature part of me really, really, REALLY likes the idea of someone buying a book full of shit poetry just to see their name in print, only to turn the page and see a verse about buying Bill Murray a curry. If one person in the world saw my poem in that book and laughed...that would make it worth it. However, sending back the form leaves me open to them sending me more nonsense in the future etc.
That's all I can say for now, really. What would YOU do? Any suggestions, drop me a comment on here or tweet me, @Bruno_Di_Gradi. Until next time, poetry fans!