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Doping Scandal Rocks Poetry

July 31, 2006

July 30, New York (AHP2 News Service) – The
poetry world has been rocked by recent
revelations that several of the most prestigious
national poetry contest winners in 2005 and 2006
were written with the aid of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Over the past decade, poetry contests have
emphasized our openness to all participants, with
the promise that each manuscript is judged on its
merits along,” said Guadalupe Maximino Glumstein,
the Chancellor of the International Poetry
Contests Federation (IPCF). “Doping is a huge
step backward in our efforts, since it gives an
unfair competitive advantage to those who are
willing to do anything, including risk long-term
damage to their bodies and minds, in order to write the best poem.”

The IPCF advocates testing for
performance-enhancing drugs as a prerequisite for
national book publications, slam competitions, as
well a poetry contests. Poets that violate IPCF
rules would be ineligible for prizes or
anthologies for penalty periods of one year for
first offenders to eternity for repeat offenders.
Poets that comply with IPCF guidelines get a
sticker to affix to all their publications
certifying their poems as doping-free.

“Unless we want poetry to sink back into the
margins of society, we must assure readers that
poets produce their work with their own sweat
and imagination. When we teach a poem to a young
person in a school setting, to inspire and
instruct, we need to be able to say that anyone
can aspire to write a poem as good as this. We
can’t afford to send a message that doping is
necessary to write the best poems. We have to have an even playing field.”

Several leading poets were asked to comment on
the scandal but refused to talk on the record,
for fear of provoking IPCF investigations of
their conduct. Unlike the use of doping in track
and cycling, poets often use
poetry-performance-enhancing drugs to cause
temporary physical and mental impairment or
paralysis, in order to hyperactivate their
imaginative capacities. The practice has been
shown to cause a number of long-term physical and mental maladies.

But 11-year old Daisy Threadwhistle of
Incontrobrogliaria, New Jersey, was eager to
speak on the record. Ms. Threadwhistle said she
was very disappointed when a poem from her school
reader was removed when its author tested
positive for performance-enhancing drugs. “ ‘The
Moon Is My Revenge, Venus My Soldier of
Midnight’ ” was my favorite poem this year. I
feel cheated. I don’t think I want to read any more poems.”
In early 2006, IPCF introduced a battery of blood
and psychological tests to detect poetic doping.
An IPCF study group is now investigating whether
the use of certain computer programs and search
engines also should be banned from poetry.
Mike Freakman

posted by Bernstein to the Buffalo Poetics List

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