Rania M.M. Watts: The Poetry Olympics

The inaugural, Instagram-exclusive Poetry Olympics begins on August 1st. 

The inaugural, Instagram-exclusive Poetry Olympics begins on August 1st. 

What do you do when you are supposed to be working on an article for Thirty West Publishing House?

A. Whine to your friends

B. Suck it up and take it or

C. Oh well just give up

Ding Ding Ding

The answer is B, which indeed means exploring every facet of a world that has not only moved me through words—to the point of extreme inspiration. Can you guess what world I’m talking about? All of them. The minute you read a book from an author, especially an independent author, the work contains pieces riddled with painful truths. These words are created by writers who genuinely bleed letters; these scribes who constantly express themselves so freely are the contestants who will be participating in the first annual Poetry Olympics. 

The origin story is not as simple as the premise. I’ve been writing poetry for 31 years and through those years never in my life had I ever experienced writer's block. I had no idea how crippling and debilitating it could be to be surrounded by self-doubt. Emotions transmute themselves to a freshly opened box of Kleenex that houses a pile of used tissues absorbed with tears. A pain so immense it genuinely renders you incapable of even moving forward. One day, I spoke to my good friend Tony who in his own right is an accomplished musician. I told him those dreaded words:  I could not write anymore. I felt so broken as though the words would never find a way to me ever again. Do you know how difficult it is to write a poem when you are creatively blocked? It has got to be one of the worst feelings ever. Eventually, I came across Danielle Krysa’s book, Creative Block. It’s riddled with so many suggestions by artists around the globe as to how to “unblock” yourself. My favourites from the book were from photographer Stephanie Vovas’, “Project No 35” and ceramic artist, Mel Robson, who also had a wonderfully eye-opening block to get you out of your comfort zones. All you need is a watch and a pair of dice. You roll the dice and the numbers will tell you how far you are supposed to go—whether it be by walking, train, bus or car drive—until you reached your “time”. There, you create on that spot in an unabashed manner. It empowered me to explore my surroundings further. Even though most of them ended up on my studio floor, there was indeed merit in performing this exercise as it allowed to me to write how I really feel even though the eloquence & sophistication was lacking. Do you know how hard it is, as a writer, to try something new and knowing you might fail? It has got to be one of the most debilitating things, but it does encourage one to be bolder through their body of work instead of just allowing it to remain stagnant.

In addition to that, Tony suggested a bunch of activities I could perform to get myself out of my funk. He knew how much I love poetry and suggested I create the Poetry Olympics. It could be an exercise not only to cure myself but to inspire others who are also in a drought. It’s as though there was a magic door that opened every single possibility. The poetic forms to be explored would include but are not limited to: abstract, erasure, cinquain, katauta, haiku, tanka, prose & of course, the ever-lasting Shakespearian sonnet. I also had to think about prizes. I mean, what kind of Olympics would it be without prizes? I was frightened, really. All I really wanted to do was ask those independent writers who would be participating for book donations to serve as prizes. But at this point, I really had nothing left to lose; the worst thing that could happen was for someone to say no.

At first, all I wanted for the event was eBooks but then, some writers approached me saying that they would rather donate printed books. With my committee at my back, we decided to give printed books to those who would receive the gold classification for that day and eBooks to the silver & bronze winners. I made a deal with all the writers who wanted to mail there books out that even though this is an international event no one will have to ship outside of their home countries, which in turn means that no one will end up paying a ton in shipping. There are so many contributors I could not possibly list them all.  But, let me say this the caliber of independent writers is beyond my wildest dreams. It’s quite inspirational if you think about it.

It’s also important to discuss our esteemed judges. Alicia Cook, a human being who is an award-winning writer and advocate, has fought in the trenches against drug addiction and the losses that come from it. Her work speaks to me from a very honest and vulnerable place where she is not afraid to express herself. Check out her books now available on Amazon: Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately & I Hope My Voice Doesn’t Skip (both of which are prizes for these Olympics). My second judge is Josh Dale, founder of Thirty West Publishing House—Josh in his own write is an accomplished writer and editor. My favourite book by him is Duality Lies Beneath. I must admit I still refer to the letter to William Blake. I found it ingenious and a write that will surpass the parchment it is written on. The third judge is screenwriter & microbiologist, Liz Lugo. Liz’s work speaks of raw emotion she does not mince her words and displays them always with elegance and grace. Our final judge is singer, songwriter, musician and my mentor throughout this whole thing, Tony Moore. Tony has been in such bands which include Iron Maiden & Cutting Crew. Currently, he is a solo act with several brilliant songs under his belt which include: “Dear Me”, “Save the Day”, “Perfect & Beautiful” and two of my all-time favourites, “Tunnel Vision” and “Best Day of Your Life”.

Our globe is suffering and only with literacy and creativity will power us through these dark times. Despite the issues that I and scores of others have gone through, I do hope that this blip on the cultural radar will guide those lost in this sea of despair. We are still taking submissions for entrants and more information can be found at http://cementcoveredinkquills.blogspot.com/p/poetry-olympics.html or directly on Instagram @poetryolympics. Thank you all for aligning with this selfless curation and friendly competition of poetic prowess and will see you in August!

Rania M.M. Watts is a Palestinian-Canadian poet with an eventful past and humble future. Her latest publications are from KUBOA, 48th Street Press, and through her blog, Cement Covered Ink Quills, where she has interviewed and showcased creatives of all disciplines. She is a stay-at-home mother and knows how to top a pizza. Roach Print Anthology, curated by Watts, is available on Amazon with all proceeds donated to victims and survivors of mental disorders.

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