Last year, I participated in the 2022 DC Poet Project after being selected as a finalist by written submission. This year I’ll participate in the 2023 DC Poet Project after winning an open mic competition to be selected as a finalist (felt good!). Now I prepare to compete in the final reading on Sunday, May 7th.
There’s a lot of anticipation associated with this competition since the prize is a $1,000 book contract. Having been ready to publish a book for well over a year with two manuscripts ready to go, it would be a dream come true to win this competition and get a book out there before the end of the calendar year. BUT. I’m trying to keep myself in-check because art competitions are fickle. First of all, they are either left up to the opinions of one or a few judges, or (like this one) they’re popularity contests. Secondly, readings like this with the audience voting for a winner inevitably showcase the strengths of those poets with slam-like tendencies who slap you in the face with their words, while often failing to highlight poetic subtleties that might instead squeeze your heart or leave you with a slight emptiness inside that you might not fully understand but want to explore.
Both my poetic voice and my literal voice are on the quieter side, and when I raise them to fill a big room I either sound frail or unnecessarily agitated and off-kilter. (I hope they have a mic and speakers for the event this year!)
Regardless, I decided to prepare myself for the final reading this year in a different way. I know that I’m joining a group of very talented poets and artists. With the line-up last year (only three finalists), I truly thought I would be able to win. This year, not so much. Last year, I tried too much to control the outcome of the competition. I invited people to come to the event and help me win the competition – like a politician. I didn’t realize how much that put me out of my comfort zone. And when I’m already out of my comfort zone getting up there and baring my mind for the audience, it’s really not helpful being doubly uncomfortable.
This year, I’ll advertise the event and will invite my people , but will try my best not to go in with such high hopes that I engineered the audience in a way that would let me win. I’ll do my best to accept what is uncontrollable and focus more on going in knowing that being there as a finalist is an accomplishment in and of itself. I’ll do my best to revel in the experience with pride knowing I’ve already accomplished something and deserve to be on that stage – even if I don’t, or won’t, have a book.
So if you’re interested and in the DC area on May 7th, please register and attend the event! Use the eventbrite link to register, and visit Day Eight’s website to read the post on this event and competition. And now a bit about the five finalists for this year’s competition (from Day Eight’s blog)…