AMERICAN and British literary magazines have a long tradition of competitions. The Home Forum's short tradition of same has confirmed our expectations of fun, friendliness, and diverse skills and interests among far-flung readers. George McCulloch of Syracuse, N.Y., who received a certificate in the '' 'Twas the night before Christmas'' competition, writes: ''Chief dividend has been hearing from friends we haven't been in touch with for quite a while. The Monitor does get around! P.S. Like - I suspect - many other readers, my wife and I have quite a scrapbook of some of the fine serious verse you have printed.''
But we need to do better in making competition instructions clear. We asked for ''false starts'' to the Christmas verse by Clement Moore. Douglas Anderson of La Jolla says we violated the rules by accepting what amounted to complete poems, including anachronistic references to contemporary matters that Moore could not have known in the early 19th century. Mary C. Armstrong of Waco, Texas, gave it to us in verse:
The guidelines read, ''You are Clement Clarke Moore,''
And so, assuming that I was C.C.,
I found myself writing that Christmas verse 'Way back in eighteen hundred twenty-three. Others, it seems, felt no such restriction - They had Moore a prophet, as well as D.D., He spoke of condos, planes, and computers (Even said he was ''Mom'' and grandmotherly!). No wonder he had to write and rewrite, No wonder his false starts were many, If he'd babbled of subjects like those above, Folks would surely have thought him a ninny. At the risk of being found nitpicking, My neck, I know, I am outsticking
When I say if you wanted Moore updated You should have specifically so stated. Henceforth, please let me know the century In which I'm supposed to write my entry. Thanks, it only hurts when we cry.