Sunday, July 03, 2005

Poetic License

Been spending the day preparing my submission to the Florida State Poets Association 2005 Contests. The deadline is 7/15, so I'm in good shape -- I've got 18 of the 20 contests covered so far. Until today I'd gone for months without writing poems because I've been heavily into fiction mode, but today I drafted 7. I'll let them ferment a while, then see what I want to tweak before I send off the package.

One need not be a member to submit to state contests, though some of the categories might be closed to nonmembers and members tend to get a discount on the submission fee. I didn't know about these until 2003, when I joined FSPA. That year I entered and won some prizes in the Indiana and Minnesota state contests. But I tend to stick with Florida and with National; and I skipped National this year because I was enmeshed in fiction writing.

The National Federation of State Poetry Societies had member societies in 36 states as of Oct. 1, 2004, and its webpage contains links to the 18 state societies that have their own URLs. Judges come from out of state. Submitted poems must be unpublished (posts on a website are considered "published"). Different contests are held at different times during the year.

We're planning a quiet Fourth -- might take a walk if weather permits. We're into the rainy season, and in these parts that has broad implications. Rain behaves strangely here. I've experienced what I call "cloud spits" -- literally, one fat splat on the windshield and that's all, folks. Then we have hit-&-run rain, which I never experienced up north: everything's dead calm, then the sky opens up and whams you with a deluge for a couple of minutes, and then it's over just as quickly. Zero to 60 and back to zero before you ever know what hit you. I think they call 'em pop-up storms. Local radar on the Weather Channel shows peekaboo red blots, and we become two grown women leaning hard toward the TV, pointing and shouting, "There it is!" as though we've just spotted an ivory-billed woodpecker....

I'd bought an American flag in 1983 when I started living on my own, but it isn't the Stars and Stripes. It's the Gadsden flag, the one that shows a coiled rattlesnake and says Don't Tread On Me. gives a good history of it. I displayed it in the first place I lived, since I had just declared my own independence at the time and liked both the warning and the critter. (This probably has to do with the fact that when I was a toddler my favorite stuffed animal was a six-foot-long purple snake. Since then I've been honored to have made the aquaintance of a couple of boa constrictors.)

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance," is a quote I cleaved to as well. It's attributed to Thomas Jefferson but does not appear in the 10 pages devoted to his quotes on My Bartlett's Quotations cites John Philpot Curran (1750-1817), who said, "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt," in his Speech Upon the Right of Election of Lord Mayor of Dublin, July 10, 1790. Bartlett's footnotes the quote as also attributed to Jefferson in the form, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

As one might expect, Googling the quote reveals broad interpretations all up and down the ideological and political spectrum. Ask any dozen people chosen at random to define "vigilance," "liberty," "servitude," "crime," "punishment," "guilt," and "God". In spite of all our internal catfights, we've stuck it out with each other. That in itself is nothing to sneeze at.


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