Saturday, November 27, 2010

Judging Poetry Contests and . . .

Last week a poet-friend of mine said she didn’t understand the economic crisis. It was “like way too complicated.” But she justified her ignorance on the grounds that she was a poet. So what did it have to do with her? Maybe she’s right. But I want to tell this story about the judge of a poetry contest. A true story. It happened a while ago . . .

1. It began with a poetry press that was struggling a bit, and it really wanted to survive. It needed to make some money fast.

2. The press decided to run a contest. The editor-in-chief thought that the more people it could entice to enter its contest, the more profit it could make. One way to ensure many entries and lots of attention was to ask a famous poet to judge. He had his heart set on one famous poet.
But the famous poet didn’t want to be a judge. (Who can blame him? Really, reading manuscripts for contests sucks!)

Oh please! You will give this contest credibility, the editor said to the famous poet. And we will make a more money off of the contest because everyone will want to be the poet chosen by a famous poet.

3. So the famous poet made a secret a deal.

The deal was that he would “judge” the contest if he could be assured that his poet-friend would enter the contest, and that the poet-friend’s manuscript would be among the finalists.

4. The deal was made. Many folks entered the contest. The famous poet judged the contest. And his poet-friend was selected. And the press, the famous poet, and the famous poet’s friend were all very happy. And unapologetic.

5. The famous poet said that his friend was much smarter and more talented than anyone else. He said he knew his friend’s book was the winner without even reading the other entries. (Never mind that there are rules against selecting books by friends, relatives, former students, etc. )

What if the story went like this?

1. There was once an investment bank that wanted to make a ton money.

2. The bank decided that the fastest and easiest way to make money was to sell crap to buyers. The more people the bank could entice into buying real crap, the more money it could make

But the bank was unhappy because that there were regulations about selling real crap.

3. So the bank made a secret deal with the government that was supposed to regulate the selling of crap. Or better yet, the bank’s own top people became treasury secretary (for one administration after another)! And soon there were no regulations stopping the bank from selling crap! Ta-dah!

4. So the investment bank sold crap. Lots and lots of crap!

5. And the bank and all its own people made tons and tons of money. And the bank and the government keep saying nothing is wrong with this picture. It’s not their fault that the people keep buying crap. No one meant for the crap-buying to happen like that.

I have heard some on the media say how smart those Wall Street bankers are. (At least certain ones, the ones with the closest link to the politicians.) They’re so smart in fact, they deserve to make billions.

And we're dumb enough to buy that crap, right?

And to think, the dance between bankers and the government just keeps going on.


Lyle Daggett said...

I suppose the remaining part of the analogy was that the poetry press lost money anyway, even after getting the help of a famous poet. Because, you know, making behind-the-scenes deals to help your friends doesn't actually do anything to fix the economy...

Zaphos said...

No Lyle, the poetry press posted record profits, because the famous poet bought most of the copies on credit. He didn't have the money but he had a huge line of credit available so there were no consequences whatsoever the end :)

Lyle Daggett said...

Oh, yes -- that must be it. Because as we all know, the easy availability of excessive amounts of credit has never caused any problems in the economy. :)

Erin O'Brien said...

It was “like way too complicated.” But she justified her ignorance on the grounds that she was a poet.

Tell her that the economic crisis happened because not enough poets ate their paper bags.

And please move to my neighborhood immediately so we may drink coffee in our bathrobes and solve the rest of the earth's problems.

That is all. Thank you.