or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 1/31/10

   February 6th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Child poetPerhaps it's just my hyperactive paranoia, but anytime someone asked me an unusual question or acts strangely, I think it's some kind of "secret shopper" evaluating my performance. Case in point, a little while ago the reference desk received the following email:

is there a contest I can use to make my kid a famous poet?

That was it - no name, no other information, just that one line. The email address seemed legitimate, so I researched it a bit and replied:

I think I'll need a little bit more information from you, but I do have some suggestions. It would be helpful to know the age of the child, and also what you're looking for in a contest: are you looking for a venue for live readings, a mail-in contest with winners and prizes, just somewhere that will print poetry from children, or something else entirely?

Our Childrens Rooms subscribes to lots of magazines that accept poetry submissions from children. They're not exactly contests, but the poetry is judged to see if it's worthy of publishing in their magazines. One magazine that publishes a lot of poetry is "New Moon" but others do as well.

The Chelmsford Library has a "poetry slam" every April, which is open to all ages. It is a contest in which winners are chosen, but as our website says, it is a gentle contest. And it's held in April because that is National Poetry Month - during that month, there are a lot of other local poetry-related events, but those usually aren't announced or publicized until closer to April.

There are also lots of online poetry contests - here are a few websites I found:

Another resource is the Massachusetts Poetry Festival website, which is building a database of both poets and venues. It doesn't seem like it's ready yet, but their website has a list of the people building the database, so they may have information on contests they could provide you with.

Lastly, I found a article on the eHow.com website that probably says a lot of what you already know, but also had a few interesting tips relating to childrens' poetry contests.

The woman here who organizes the poetry slams is out for the first part of this week, but I think she will have more ideas. I'll ask her when she comes back, and will email you with whatever else she can suggest. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions, or if you can be more specific about what you are looking for. Thanks, and take care.

This was at least a month ago, and I never got a response. I'm not sure if it was real or not, but if it was, I hope it was helpful. However (and granted, I am not a parent), it always bothers me when people refer to their child as "kid" and when it seemed parents are forcing their kids* into something for their own benefit. To wit:

Bruno Parenting FAIL video:


*Oddly, although calling one child "kid" bothers me, referring to a group of children as "kids" is perfectly fine. "Lady" works the same way - calling one woman "lady" seems rude, but referring to a group of women as "ladies" is okay. I am a complex person.

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Reference Question of the Week – 12/17

   December 23rd, 2006 Brian Herzog

Garrison Kiellor ReadingThis was a relatively quick reference question, but for some reason it struck me as funny. A patron walks up to the desk and says:

I'm looking for the poem that Gary Kelly read on the radio this morning. It was about Christmas, but not the buy-y Christmas - it was about the opposite kind of Christmas.

"The opposite kind of Christmas" alone was kind of funny, but "Gary Kelly" made me laugh, too. For whatever reason - perhaps the initials "G. K." and the word "radio" - I knew she was actually talking about Garrison Kiellor's radio program, The Writer's Almanac.

I didn't know the web address, but a quick Google search for "The Writer's Almanac" found the url, and right on its homepage was the full text of the poem.

She was very happy to read it, but also wanted a copy. So, I did an author search in our catalog for John Betjeman, and found that his Collected Poems was owned by another consortium library. I requested it for the patron, and she went away smiling and happy, while visions of the opposite kind of sugar plums danced in her head.

garrison kiellor, john Betjeman, libraries, library, poem, poems, poetry, reference question, the writer's almanac

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