While I always felt this was one of the best things I'd written, The Shadow has been rejected more times than anything else I've sent out: it was rejected by CBC Anthology in 1981, by The Malahat Review in 1983, won nothing at the Bridport Poetry Competition in 1991, nor in the Bournemouth Poetry Competition, also in 1991.
I wouldn't have sent it to Bournemouth in 1993, but for two things: first, my husband's encouragement. "I really shouldn't send this to Bournemouth again, it's already been rejected there." "Was it the same judge?" he asked. "No, it's a different one every year." "So, why don't you sent it again?" And I did. The second reason, why I was even looking at previously-entered stuff, was that the organizer had encouraged me, the previous year (after I'd won 3rd place two years running), saying, "third time lucky," which made me determined to give myself the best possible chance -- so I sent out nine poems instead of my usual three.
Neil Curry, the judge in 1993, said when he first read the poem, he thought it was okay, but nothing special. He put it in the pile to read again, rather than the reject pile, but it hadn't made that much of an impression on him. He found, though, that as he read other things, he kept thinking about it. When he found himself still thinking about it the next day, he thought he'd found the winner.
It was great to have the poem appreciated at last (though when Chris Wiseman first read it, he said, "I wish I'd written it," a comment I've never heard from him before or since). I guess there's some kind of lesson here, about persistence or something: or maybe about obsessive forms obsessing people, I don't know. Because I'd won something at Bournemouth for three consecutive years, the judges each sent me an autographed copy of one of their books of poetry, as a personal prize. I treasure them and keep them safe.Oh, and by the way, the £200 prize money got us all some bikes that summer. Buying bikes with a poem -- what a concept.
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