SCANSION. . .

about the History and Future of the National Annual
SENIOR POETs LAUREATE POETRY COMPETITION

1993 through 2003

The first Senior Poet Laureate Poetry Competition was held in 1993. It was co-founded by Vera-Jane Goodin and Wanda Sue Parrott, two freelance editors/reporters who worked part-time for Senior Pages Newspapers published by Steve Wentworth; headquarters were in Springfield, Missouri. Vera-Jane was editor of the Springfield edition; Wanda Sue was editor of the Joplin edition. They shared office space at 305 E. Walnut St., Springfield, Missouri, where a file cabinet rapidly filled with unsolicited poetry from poets within the reading area: the 4-state Ozarks Mountain region comprised of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The first Senior Poet Laureate contest in 1993 was strictly regional and was intended to invite poetry submissions. The best poem would receive the award and publication; then, all poetry could be thrown out and the file space made available for other use. There was no entry fee, and no monetary award offered, but the winner would get a certificate and a profile would be published in the newspapers for readers age 55 and older.

Readers Wanted More

The contest was intended to be a one-time event; however, it was so popular with readers, who wanted another Senior Poet Laureate contest, that the co-founders decided to sponsor such an event themselves, since Steve Wentworth, publisher, was not interested in dedicating free space to non-revenue-producing material. Thus, in 1994 the second such contest was held as a joint effort of Goodin Communications (Vera-Jane's business) and Penny Peephole Publications (Wanda Sue's business).

In 1994, in order to obtain financing to sustain the contest, a $1 fee for each submission was added; so was a free chapbook entitled GOLDEN WORDS, which was sent to each winner. Categories were added: rhymed and unrhymed poetry. Unknown to the co-founders, they had kicked off a tradition that would sweep around the country—and the world.

Kicked Off with Help from NFSPS

With the help of STROPHES, the newsletter of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS), publicity about the contest for poets age 55 (later lowered to 50) and older was published nationally, and the contest began to draw responses from across the country and also from American poets living abroad. Adding categories over the years helped increase submissions, and by the time the co-sponsorship came to an end in 2003, there were 12 categories, and a $10 award for each winner, plus $60 for the best-overall-poem's author who also got the National Senior Poet Laureate title.

In 2002, papers were filed with the Missouri Secretary of State to establish the National Senior Poet Laureate Foundation, a non-profit corporation. The records mysteriously disappeared and the Secretary of State advised that because the registration was not renewed in 2003 it had been dissolved at the same time Vera-Jane decided to retire.

The Partnership is Dissolved

After producing the 2003 GOLDEN WORDS, Vera-Jane retired so she could marry photographer John Schultz. Wanda Sue decided to continue as contest administrator by sponsoring the contest under her own non-profit literary organization, Amy Kitchener's Angels Without Wings Foundation, which was legally incorporated in the state of Missouri on July 31, 2001. Thus ended the partnership between Vera-Jane Goodin and Wanda Sue Parrott, during which eleven Senior Poet Laureate Contests were produced and ten volumes of GOLDEN WORDS were published.

More Love than Money

Running the annual contests, from the first publicity that appeared in January through the final copy of GOLDEN WORDS that was mailed in December, took a full year during which the partners worked part-time and kept records we are sharing here to show how an idea whose time has come just keeps on growing

Year

Number of Poems

1993

85

1994

128

1995

306

1996

634

1997

670

1998

864

1999

733

2000

1002

2001

1257

2002

1300

2003

765

Total

7744

1993 through 2003

TOTAL INCOME FROM CONTEST FEES
(at $1 per poem)

1993 through 2003
7744 poems - 85 non-fee entries = $ 7659 total

Poetry: Luxury of the Elder Class?
Poetry is known as both a hobby and luxury only the senior segment of society can afford. And everyone has heard reference to “starving poets.” Poetry is also known as the highest form of literature. Regardless of what it is or is not, here are the facts and figures gleaned from the first 10-year period of Senior Poet Laureate Contest history in which Vera-Jane and Wanda Sue were business partners.

TOTAL EXPENSES AND INCOME PER PARTNER
(estimated)

$7659 -7000 = $ 659 Net Income
(estimated)

Average income spread over 10 years: $65.90 per year total for contests Split between Goodin & Parrott: $32.95 each net income per year* Monthly income per partner $ 2.75 average net income per month per year* *Estimate may be high, which is why poets must be rich enough to dabble with dedication but inspired enough to survive on love.

The bottom line, practically speaking, is that since poetry usually pays a pittance, if it pays at all, careers as poets do not beckon to young people just entering the job market unless they become teachers whose curricula include poetry writing. On the opposite end of the job-related spectrum, however, elders who didn't spend their free time playing golf, traveling or tatting in their rockers, simply amazed Vera-Jane and Wanda Sue, who recognized them as America's late-blooming golden treasures.

Golden minds produced golden words in the so-called golden years. Not only were older poets wise and witty, those on fixed retirement incomes could afford to put pen to paper and become poets.

Their thoughts became things sent down to earth on wings of their own pens.

2004 through 2011

After Vera-Jane retired as a partner in 2003, she became a Director on the board of Amy Kitchener's Angels Without Wings Foundation. The foundation became new sponsor of the contest and the Senior Poet Laureate contest entered a revolutionary and evolutionary phase of change that continues today.

Wanda experimented by renaming it Senior Poets Laureate Poetry Competition for American poets age 50 and older. Although there was still just one national laureate-award winner, each state and territory represented by entries qualified for a State Senior Poet Laureate award winner. Other special awards were sometimes added, along with Honor Scroll awards for poets whose poems passed the first round of judging but did not make it to the finals.

Financing the Awards

For the first few contests after Vera-Jane's retirement, a National Senior Poet Laureate Award was given to the writer of the best overall poem, with a National Senior Poet Laureate Runner Up Award going to the next-best poem, and the cash being split. Amount of the award was determined by the income from entries.

The runner-up category was eliminated in 2008 in order to give the national laureate-level winner a guaranteed substantial cash prize. So, from 1993, when John L. Mullins, the first Senior Poet Laureate, won only a certificate and publication in the Ozarks Senior Pages Newspapers, the award rose from $10 in the 1990s to $60 in 2003 and on to $500 in 2009.

The first SPL contest in 1993 cost nothing to enter. In 1994, when Vera-Jane and Wanda Sue took it out of the newspaper office and made it their private endeavor, they began charging a $1 entry fee. In 2004, Wanda Sue Parrott raised the fee to $3 per page. Entries dropped dramatically, but have slowly climbed. At the peak during the first 10-year period of the competition, slightly more than 1300 entries came.

Facing the Future

The 2009 contest's 712 entries at $3 per entry marked the first time in the contest's 17-year history that SPL ended with a substantial enough balance to finance the publication of GOLDEN WORDS anthology online, without seeking subscription fees or any other type of financial support, from our poet friends.

Contributions are always welcome, since the contest is solely self-supporting from entry fees and donations.

However, donations may no longer be tax deductible, because Amy Kitchener's Angels Without Wings non-profit literary foundation was dissolved as of August 31, 2009 after Wanda Sue Parrott moved from Springfield, Missouri to Monterey, California.

If you are a potential donor, we suggest you discuss the matter with your tax specialist because you might not be able to claim such a donation as a tax deduction for your income taxes.

As the electronic edition of GOLDEN WORDS went to press in September 2009, the 74-year old sole sponsor reported a $340 balance in the Senior Poets Laureate section of her now-personal Wanda Sue Parrott Literary Fund checking account which she was maintaining until a decision had been reached about whether she would reincorporate or retire. She was opting for total retirement, and letting the Senior Poets Laureate Poetry Competition lapse when a golden surprise caused her to rethink the contest and her role in it.

Original Partnership is Restored

Co-founder Vera-Jane Goodin Schultz came out of retirement and rejoined Wanda as Co-Sponsor of the 2010 18th annual national Senior Poets Laureate Poetry Competition for American poets age 50 and older. Her husband, photographer John Schultz, joined the team as chief guest panelist among the judges. And, the infusion of their enthusiasm seemed to be contagious, because a total of 1053 entries came from 250 poets from 45 states and three foreign countries.

The income covers awarding of the $500 National Senior Poet Laureate Award and reinstituting the Runner-Up Award, for which a $100 Award was added. With enough cash on hand to maintain a SPL operating fund, it appears there will be a 19th Annual National Senior Poets Laureate Poetry Competition in 2011. Wanda Sue Parrott was not quite yet ready to retire after all, although Vera-Jane was forced, for personal reasons, to again withdraw.

Details about the 2011 competition were announced via e-mail, in The Diploemat News Letter, and on the web site at www.amykitchenerfdn.org and the 2011 competition was extended by another year. It will celebrate its 20th year in 2012, and its future beyond that date is unknown.

SENIOR POETS LAUREATE
1993 through 2011
NATIONAL AMERICAN SENIOR POETS LAUREATE

1993

JOHN L. MULLINS

Springfield, Missouri

1994

JOAN GILBERT

Hallsville, Missouri

1995

WALTER D. KING

Springfield, Missouri

1996

REGINA MURRAY BRAULT

Burlington, Vermont

1997

DELPHINE LeDOUX

Sacramento, California

1998

JOAN RITTY

Wadsworth, Ohio

1999

EMERY L. CAMPBELL

Lawrenceville, Georgia

2000

REESE DANLEY-KILGO

Huntsville, Alabama

2001

HELEN F. BLACKSHEAR

Montgomery, Alabama

2002

DAN RUSTIN

Yonkers, New York

2003

CLARENCE P. SOCWELL

Ogden, Utah

2004

BARBARA RUTH SAMPSON

Stockbridge, Georgia

2005

CLAUDE BLACKWOOD

Memphis, Tennessee

2005

P. J. ROBERTS, Runner Up

Rockport, Massashusetts

2006

KENNETH ROLLER

Dadeville, Missouri

2006

IDA FASEL. Runner Up

Denver, Colorado

2007

JANE LOGAN

Sparks, Nevada

2007

DEWELL H. BYRD, Runner Up

Eureka, California

2008

MIKE GULLICKSON

Burnet, Texas

2009

PATRICIA FROLANDER

Sundance, Wyoming

2010

REGINA MURRAY BRAULT

Burlington, Vermont

2010

EDWARD C. ROBSON Runner Up

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

2011

RAYNETTE EITEL

Las Vegas, Nevada

2011

JOSEPHINE CARPIGNANO Runner-Up

San Mateo, California


To read . . . Scansion continued. . . about the Contest click CONTEST
To read . . . Scansion continued. . . about the Poets click POETS
To read . . .Scansion continued . . . about the 2010 Facts click FAQs
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