I entered a poetry competition a few months ago. It wasn’t a particularly prestigious competition – you probably won’t have heard of it – but it was local to me and it was raising money for good causes and I thought I’d have a go.
I didn’t come first, or even second but one of the 3 poems I entered was chosen as one of three runners-up and my prize was two poetry books (I told you it was only a small competition!).
I was pleased. I filled in my little spreadsheet with a ‘success’ and didn’t think any more about it.
But then I got this email, from one of the judges, a widely published and award-winning poet (who I’d better not name in case I get him/her into trouble) and this is what it said:
Helen, I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. I was one of the judges in X competition and as you will know the judging was a collaborative effort.
When I’ve judged before, I will sometimes contact a poet afterwards via the organisers and this time I am just dropping a line to you and one other poet. I only wanted to say that I was very taken with your poem X. I loved the bitter humour in it and the strength of the poetic voice. It was very impressive. So I wish you all success in your future writing, if X is anything to go by there is a collection in that voice. Happy Christmas.
Now, I never think I’m a very good poet. Even though I’ve been Poet Laureate for Warwick and won a couple of (small) poetry competitions, I honestly think I’m the worst poet in the little poetry group that I belong to. So that email gave me a real boost.
Oh, I’m not dashing off to put a collection together – I’m not that buoyed up – BUT the fact that someone who knows what they’re talking about, took the trouble to tell me they liked my poem, that it was good, is amazing and uplifting and confidence-giving.
So, the thought I want to leave you with (and I’m telling myself at the same time), is don’t be afraid to offer praise, if you think something’s good or someone’s done a good job (ahem, like a blog post, for example!).
Recently, my OH’s golfing partner was down in the dumps about his driving and he’s been having lessons and when they played last week, apparently he was much, much better. “And did you tell him?” I asked. “Erm… no,” came the answer.
But why not?! We need to tell each other. Be kind. Be generous with your praise. It doesn’t cost you anything. And it could change someone’s life.
Happy Christmas! x
PS: This is lovely – from another (real!) poet, Ian McMillan – on why he prefers Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. Tissues at the ready though. You have been warned.