Countless poets imagine on a daily or nightly basis (or both!) just what it would be like to make it big in poetry. They're convinced that they only need one major win or acceptance for their path to be cleared to stardom, for their arrival at some hidden inner sanctum to be declared.
In this context, let's imagine winning the Bridport, followed by the National Poetry Competition. How would it feel? How would life change? Would things be utterly transformed forever?
These aren't just questions to be thrown into a vacuum. They're issues that were faced head-on by Christopher James in an excellent post on his blog a couple of years ago (thanks to Mat Riches via Neil Elder for pointing me in its direction). You can read it here.
James has gone through the process of winning and has come out the other side. He tells his story beautifully, with self-awareness in spades and zero narcissism. Making it big in poetry is a fantasy that blurs our focus on the most important things: the reading and writing process itself, followed by a search for readers. Even if we just find one, we've discovered real success.
In 1991 I made the decision to spend more of my time concentrating on the thing that fulfilled me … More