Forty years ago, I was secretly writing poetry at night or at least trying to. Somewhere during this time, I came across an entry form for a poetry contest. I believe it was stuck in some women’s magazine that my wife subscribed to.
Winners were promised that their poems would be printed in a glitzy, hard-cover book of, Upcoming American Poets, or something to that effect. I no longer remember the exact title. The glory of such an accomplishment was easily visualized by me.
Mailing in what I thought were three of my best works, a month went by before a letter came back saying all were accepted. I’d just become a Poet Laurette in my own mind. The reply stated that each book was $25.00, and that I’d want to purchase several for family and friends.
“Of course, I would!”
Instantly, I thought of eight names. Sending them each a book would prove that I’d finally made something of myself. Dad and Mom would be proud of their son and my wife would have something to brag about. They say pride goeth before fall and this became a prime example.
Sending in payment for $200.00 plus shipping, my check was deposited as soon as the company got it. The publishing firm seemed legit and was in Detroit, Michigan. From that point on I sat back and eagerly waited. I was told in the letter that it’d take a year before any books were printed and shipped out. I made sure to tell all of my family and friends about the accomplishment.
After a year passed, I tried contacting the firm finding it didn’t exist. The address I’d mailed everything to was a P.O. Box and no longer valid. A Michigan based phone number was disconnected as well. Postal authorities eventually got involved, saying I wasn’t the only one scammed. More than two-thousand wannabe poets had been lassoed by these con artists to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
After being informed by a postal investigator that every poem submitted to the fraudulent outfit was accepted, my once inflated ego lost all air. Poetry starting with roses are red, violets are blue, evidently made the cut.
I kept my lips closed for months about being duped because it was embarrassing. Eventually, seeing the humor in such, I fessed up.
There’s an old saying that fits things just perfectly here:
“Fool me once, shame on thee!
Fool me twice, shame on me!”
I’m pleased to say I learned after this first time and it’s never happened again. I’ve had similar offers since then, and passed them by like long-haired hitchhikers on a desolate stretch of highway.
Dad always preached that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Sadly, I didn’t quite get the message some forty years ago. In spite of this costly experience I still consider myself a poet, yet don’t go around advertising such.
Some things are best left in the closet!