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PHILIP SALOM

Poet and Novelist

 

The Most Unlikely Poetry Prize

Last Thursday I performed my cricket poem-entry in the unlikely (and amazingly international) Cricket Poetry Prize - with the paintings from the Cricket Art Prize as backdrop. Strange? Yes. This unexpected award is run somewhat mysteriously with help from several patrons including the board of the Sydney Cricket Ground. It seemed to me a very likeable bit of mischief: to entice poets with a modest but handy prize of $2000 to play the sporty possibiltities of poems about a national obsession. After all, Warnie has been more newsworthy than any poet, so why not let a poet hit the news with a poem about Warnie? None did, it seems, but then he was going to press with his own bad poetry. It seemed like a good lark anyway. 

I had been advised of my 'shortlisting' (ah, it was a 20-long list) a month earlier. This was announced as quite an achievement. Clearly the organiser isn't a literary person. Some weeks later I heard the short shortlisted poets had read their work at the SCG and a winner was announced. Lucky for the organisers no poet from the many international entries was shortlisted...

The travelling art show came to Melbourne: 40 paintings of the finalists were hung at The Age's head office and two local poets were asked to read their poems. Well, if you start a lark you should see it through. I could remind people just how great Wesley Hall had been. Free wine and handy hot nibbles. The paintings were probably better than the poems overall. It was never going to be surprising. But it got stranger. There were artists there who because they hadn't made the cut referred to themselves as failed artists. This stuff makes me run. 

And stranger - that night I heard that the 20 long-shortlisted poems had been performed in a Sydney pub with actors reading the works aloud and with audience whoops and howls taken as judgement. Howzat? This despite the organisers naming two judges - a poet and a PR person - as, um, judges. Very handy. Local poets could go along and cheer their own poems. And the top four poems are from NSW. 

It's only fun, or should be, but this does look like a loaded dice. Or biting the ball? It's wonky.