Monday, January 3, 2011

Does Poetry Matter?

People go bonkers in rural Minnesota during the long winters. New York Mills, Minnesota, population 1,158. This is one small community's effort to reduce the number of ax murders, though the actual debate is in April.

America’s premier amateur philosophy contest, The Great American Think-Off, releases its 2011 essay and debate question: "Does Poetry Matter?" The New York Mills Regional Cultural Center in rural northwest Minnesota will host this 19th annual Think-Off with live debate (June 11th, 2011). The debate follows an essay contest with entry deadline of April 1st, 2011. Four finalist essay writers will be selected and invited to participate in the debate in June. A $500 cash prize is awarded to each finalist as well as travel and lodging.

New York Mills Regional Cultural Center is a non-profit rural art and culture organization committed to encouraging a dialogue among all Americans that considers important values and questions for our time. This year the focus is on poetry (and the broader field of all the arts). Essayists and debaters may wish to address the role of the poet (artist) in society, whether poetry (and art) can be a vehicle for change either personally or in the larger world, and in what way poetry may play a role in the creation of community, beauty, and creating new ways of perceiving the people and world around us.

Entering the competition is easy. Just submit an essay of 750 words or less by April 1, 2011 (postmark date). You may send your essay in one of three ways: through the mail to Great American Think-Off, New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567 or email to think-off@kulcher.org (no attachments) or submit on-line at www.think-off.org. There is no submission fee--submissions are accepted at no charge to writers.

Successful contestants have grounded their argument in personal experience. The judges are looking for essays that address the value and usefulness of poetry by speaking about personal experience rather than abstract philosophical reasoning. Tell a good story that shows a firm standing on one side or the other of the question, “Does poetry matter?”

A panel of judges will select four finalists to come to New York Mills, Minnesota, for the final debate to be held June 11, 2011. The names of the four finalists, who each receive $500 plus travel, food and lodging expenses, will be announced May 1, 2011. The audience attending the debate chooses the winner. She or he will be named “America’s Greatest Thinker for 2011”. The second place is awarded a silver medallion and two bronze medallions go to third and fourth. Details about the contest are available awww.think-off.org.  

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dana Gioia, a poet and former director of the NEA, wrote a famous essay with that title (actually his was Can Poetry Matter?) years ago. He was merely one in a long line of thinkers who questioned poetry's place in culture, all the way back to Plato, who excluded poets from his Republic. The greatest essays in this tradition are by Sidney and Shelley. Poets themselves don't care; it's like asking a rabbit if bunnies matter.

mw

Gunnar Berg said...

Summit your entry. If you place you get a little money and a free trip. I'll meet you there.

Anonymous said...

I might . . . gotta think about it. Debate itself isn't that interesting to me though . . .

mw

Gunnar Berg said...

Okay, you win the $500 and come out here. I'll kidnap you at the airport and we can go riding for a couple of days and I'll take you back to the airport.

Anonymous said...

I read Gioia's book, and I care. If poets don't care, then what's the point of writing poetry? They would have no audience to write for because in order to have an audience, one needs to care about poetry. Poetry's function is supposed to be to communicate. If poets forget this, they would probably write for themselves, and then their "poetry" could not be called poetry anymore. It'd be mock-poetry, simulacrum, pure self-indulgence. Even Emily Dickinson cared.

Gunnar Berg said...

Please note beneath the 1410 top heading the only written rule we have. Consistent name or initials, even if it's bogus.

Gunnar Berg said...

I myself write the poetry that "cannot be called poetry".