Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Totally Disagree

with the [policies stated in the] above Writer's Digest blog post (edited for clarity) and totally (and respectfully) disagree with Didi.

I mean, I agree any magazine has the right to define publication as it likes for it own purposes and if one decides to submit to that magazine she needs to follow the guidelines.

But that blog post reports panelists insisting that reading a poem on a radio show is "published" -- if anyone in any way can access your work it's "published" -- and honestly, I'm not so interested in definining the term "published" which seems to somehow equate to used, ruined and sullied, no magazine is ever gonna marry her, dirty dirty poem!

"Published is published!" -- don't share your work, you're giving it away for free and if you give it away for free, even if it's just to a small group of readers, no respectable magazine editor will want to publish your poem (for free!).

That's right toots, you gave it up to the wrong fella and that's your poemie end. Go cry with the rest of the slut-hag poems.

But I am interested, very interested, in discussing what is in the best interest of poems, poets and magazines ("publications" I sometimes refer to them as, I don't refer to this blog, or my recording a poem as a "publication").

The concept of poem as a "commodity" is both silly and troubling to me. Scarcity is not helping anyone. Business models do not fit/work in the world of poetry -- with the possible exception of a handful of very popular dead poets.

My General Stance

My Response Regarding the Status of Blog Posted Poems

My Response (in the comment field) Regarding Poem Scarcity

Speaking of well selling poetry books -- whether they be anthologies or single author collections -- many of those poems included are available other places, in other magazines (both online and in print). Doesn't seem to hurt those books. In fact, it seems to help.

I understand magazines wanting work that hasn't appeared in other magazines, but when did editors start competing with the poets' ability to promote their own work? Why are we talking about exclusivity as if there's money involved? Or this mythical "one small audience" that apparently scours every single poem on Internet?

Don't put your poem out there yourself -- everybody will see it and they'll all know what you did, you easy poem-posting hussie.

Oh, I wouldn't touch a Reb Livingston poem. Everybody's had a round with that.

Oh how I wish it was that easy! I'd never need to submit poems to any magazine.



At 12:25 PM, Blogger Radish King said...

It's all a bunch of hoohoo. The whole blog-a-publishing thing is such a non issue. I put poems on my blog that I'm working on. Drafts. They appear then disappear. I send them to journals I love. None of the journals I love have guidelines that read that I can't send blog "published" poems to them, or poems I recorded, or poems I scrawled on the underpass of the freeway or poems I sang in the shower or shared at my workshop, thank goodness.

Blogs are still new. There always has to be a self appointed sherrif taking names and making rules for the rest of us.

Rebecca, Professional Outlaw

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Radish King said...

ps. I have had more than one editor find poems on my blog and ask to publish them. In fact, Didi M. has done it several times. I wonder what changed her mind.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Didi Menendez said...

Yes I have published poems posted on blogs on OCHO (Lorna Dee Cervantes) and MIPoesias Magazine (for example Mairead Byrne) when I have been editing. I have actually went and sought out these writers for the issue at hand because I really liked their work and their poetry needed a wider audience.

And of course we feature poems on miPOradio all the time from blogs. That is the whole intention of many of the programs we feature.

Our new guidelines for MiPOesias Magazine now are clear as to what we consider published. I agree that PUBLISHED IS PUBLISHED.

miPOradio is another subject all toghether since most of the programs featured writers from our community forum in facebook which does require membership to post.

Thanks Ms. Livingston -
Didi Menendez

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Terminology aside regarding what is and isn't "published" -- I think that because MiPO consistently publishes work that previously appeared on author's personal sites/blog and message boards -- we're in the same boat regarding our roles as editors is to bring the work to a wider audience, not try to limit poets for the purpose of some kind of false bragging rights on the magazine's behalf.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger shann said...

I once particitpated in a board with Sandra Soli and she wrote to say 'she wished I sent her' a certain poem rather than posted it, she would have loved it for her magazine. To my mind, the poem was a draft on a not terribly well-viewed workshop site and the policiy seemed draconian, if not crazy. I publish little chapbooks of my work for readings and friends (you have one, reb) and I sure don't think it's a big deal fifty or sixtyfolks have those books.

And if I were a publisher, would I republish something by Billy Collins or Tony Hoagland? Damn straight I would.

When I judge poetry contests, I frequently google some lines of poems, but not to see if they've been published, more to see if they've been stolen!

The Po-Biz is heading the same way as the religion biz- some people want to exclude more than they let in.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger NancyB. said...

Good grief, I'm stunned at the response to a simple blog post about published vs. unpublished. (It's not a Writer's Digest, article, by the way; just me.) Where in the world did I say anything about a poem or poet being "dirty" and skanky? It's an issue I wanted to address right out of the chute because I get asked about it constantly--in phone calls, e-mails, at bookstore appearances. Poets (and many editors) are obsessed over whether work is published or not; not to mention first rights vs. reprint rights, copyright violations, etc. I'm delighted things are more enlightened in the Cyberspace world of poetry publishing; I wish it were so everywhere. As for being sheriff, hand the star to someone else--I'm not interested. However, I do have a right to an informed opinion. Accept it or reject it, it's no skin off my nose. (Thanks, though, Reb, for participating in the blogger roundtable in Poet's. I think readers are going to get a lot out of it.)


At 3:58 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Nancy, the response was to what your blog post reported -- and see, you corrected me in pointing out that it was just a blog post written by you and not a Writer's Digest article. You're stating a difference, not too different than my stating there's a difference between posting a poem on a blog/newsgroup and publishing it in a magazine. And I never meant to imply "dirty" or "skanky" were your exact words -- it's a response to a general attitude (the one you were reporting) of certain editors refusing to publish work that appeared in any form ANYWHERE by the hand of the author while at the same time asserting it's not a "legitimate publishing credit" -- so we're talking about creating a whole generation of illegitimately published poems. Why?

If you click through on the links in my post, you'll see this is an ongoing discussion I've been having at a number of places, conferences, other blogs, etc. with a number of editors and poets -- and what you mentioned in your blog is definitely accurate, those are the rules for a number of publications -- and that's what I'm challenging -- and what I'm suggesting for poets to reject and take control of their work. And yes, that means not sending work to magazines that have requirements/limitations you disagree with.

Not a personal attack on you Nancy -- hope you won't take it that way!

At 4:46 PM, Blogger NancyB. said...

God, no--no personal attack assumed.

The "legitimate publishing credit" remark rises from the fact that there are a lot of poets who, if you tell them a poem is "published" if it appears in the comments of a blog, will turn around and include that fact on an acknowledgments page. It's like the whole vanity anthology problem; yes, those poems in the anthology were "published," but are those publishing credits really to be taken seriously? Obviously, it depends on the editor. Personally, I'd be most interested in the quality of the work than where it first appeared, but many editors would be uncomfortable with stating on the acknowledgments page that they're publishing a book by someone whose work has appeared only in blog comments and in vanity anthologies. Maybe "legitimate" was the wrong term, but that was what I was thinking about.

It's good there's a vigorous dialogue about this issue and others. For me, it's getting harder and harder to advise people when they ask about rights and such. (The whole "archived" aspect of online poetry is getting very messy where rights are concerned as well.) Sure, anyone would be thrilled to reprint poems by Billy Collins or Tony Hoagland--but I wouldn't recommend doing it without their permission. "Rights" are also a means of protecting the poet and his/her work.

OF COURSE there's no "stigma" attached to a poem being previously published. As several people have pointed out, most collections (books or chapbooks) consist mostly of previously published work. The children's magazine CRICKET just re-published a poem of mine that first appeared in their magazine in 1990. I was ecstatic. That's not the problem. The trouble starts when poets and editors/publishers disagree on what "published" means but never clarify things. The poets here all appear to take the correct steps, but there are plenty who don't. And chaos results.

Keep up the good fight, and keep stoking the discussion.


At 5:14 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Yes, Nancy that's definitely an issue and weakens the "we won't publish it if it appears ANYWHERE" argument.

My posting a poem on this blog or a newsgroup -- or printing it out and passing it around doesn't "count" as a "legitimate" publishing credit. Ok, fine, I agree with that. While it might be an effective way for me to share my poem with others, there was no editor or "publication" involved with its appearance.

It's not a "publication" that "counts" -- it's illegitimate, vanity, self-published, whatever label one wants to put on it. --something one can also disagree with, but let's save that for another discussion. For the purposes of this debate, it's not "really" published.

Then why do certain editors say it's considered "published" and therefore ineligible for consideration at their magazine?

They're saying because I share a poem I ruined it for any possible publication.


Well, there's the argument that they only want exclusive work that only appears on their pages -- and can't be found anywhere else -- that by doing so they're adding value to their publication.

But poems are reprinted all the time, in anthologies, in author collections, etc. They don't say -- no, you can't include your poem in your book or anthology because we only want readers to be able to get to that poem from us.

So they want to be first and get the acknowledgement -- sure, fair enough -- my poem that appears in BAP attributes MiPOesias as the first publisher, even though it appeared many months earlier on this blog. I didn't give first credit to my blog, that's not a publishing credit, that's me sharing my work on my own terms.

Any poet with work in No Tell Motel agrees to give NTM first publication credit in any acknowledgements. Standard publication agreement and that holds true if the poem first appeared in a blog or was first tattoed on the author's butt.

Some people can't tell the difference between a personal blog and an online magazine, well that's pretty hefty ignorance -- and do we really penalize an entire generation of poets because a handful of people don't understand how the Internet works, can't tell the difference between a personally curated space and an edited publication?

That's what these editors are doing -- and it's at their own peril and I don't think they'll understand that until they push themselves even further into oblivion. They're picking the wrong battles -- there are so many more opportunities for poets to distribute their own work (work very few have ever received much/any payment) -- poets promoting their own work is something to be embraced.

At 5:52 PM, Blogger Jilly said...

Most poetry mag (online and print) publication offers no recompense (aside from a copy or two of the journal in which the poet's work appears, in the case of print).

So by asking for work that hasn't appeared on the poet's blog, editors are asking for total control over the poem, even before they've encountered it, really, yet provide ... what? to the poet, exactly?

Legitimacy? An audience? The implicit understanding that yes your art is now valid in some fashion, having appeared on this [web/journal] page?

Unfortunately I think the pobiz careerism thinking has a heck of a lot to do with this:

1. If ya want a job as a poetry professor / be with the cool kids you pretty much have to have a book.

2. If you want to publish a book, you pretty much have to win a contest. (though I hope to Gahd this is changing due to micropresses etc)

3. If you want to have a book, you pretty much have to have a manuscript of legitimized poems (see my parenthetical in #2)

a. Self-publishing is icky.

4. The MFA thing. (I have one & the reason I got one is beyond the point of the post but you can ask me.)

OK this is my big sweeping generalization about the MFA thing:

There are thousands of new poetry MFA's every year, right?

So like if you spent thousands on an MFA (which is also kind of a legitimizer in a way) wouldn't you be inclined to participate in steps 1-3? Especially if your professor is the judge of a contest haha.

I mean you spent 2 years or whatever, and lots of $ on your MFA and then ... you're going to go post your own poems on your own blog? And that would further your poetry career how?

So (in my mind) the thinking of the the editors with the I'll only consider poems free from the taint of an audience's eyeballs has
a lot to do with legitimizing. And a sense of the journal's ego about its role of communication.

I am on 2 poetry listservs. WOMPO, which is a women's poetry listserv founded by Annie Finch.* A heck of a lot of the participants are academics. The other list is the Poetics list, founded by Charles Bernstein. Generally, the difference in attitudes about DIY publishing on those 2 lists is like night and day.

Sorry this is so long. I did not intend it to be a manifesto.

*Disclaimer: I do tech admin and the website for that list.

At 8:43 PM, Blogger Didi Menendez said...

Reb I think you and I already discussed the reason behind my madness and your new guidelines for NoTell Motel, etc., acceptance are changing due to our back channel. I have saved the day in my opinion.

Talk to you soon.

Thanks to you too Nancy for bringing up this issue again -

Didi Menendez

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Tim said...

I Totally Agree...

...with Reb. Just my two cents, but I think you have to look at the situation very pragmatically.

1) What's the desired outcome?
2) What's the most efficient way to achieve that outcome?

The goal of a poetry magazine is to be read and enjoyed, so that more people subscribe, so that more people read and enjoy. How does reprinting a poem that's been published on someone's blog hinder that goal? Are readers picking up an issue, and saying, "I could have read this poem if I Googled the author's name, or happened to turn on PBS radio at the right time six months ago"? I don't think so -- I know I've definitely never read a journal and thought anything like that. If anything, a poet who's part of a strong community, who shares their work with friends and online, will bring MORE readers to the magazine -- those friends will be excited to see the poem they helped critique in print, and then they'll also get a chance to read the rest of the work that they haven't yet seen. Everybody wins.

The only point at which it becomes a detriment is if readers start to become familiar with a majority of the poems an issue presents -- if I buy a magazine, I want to see mostly fresh work, not reprints of Frost I could recite from memory.

So at RATTLE (, after much deliberation, we decided to disambiguiate the guidelines -- we'll take anything that hasn't yet appeared in a magazine; if it's been in your book or anthology or blog, that's fine. Because almost every well-known poem has appeared in a magazine, this keeps us from publishing poems that have really been around the block.

It also lets us have poems considered for Best American Poetry and the Pushcart anthologies -- a seemingly important point that I haven't seen anyone mention, is that you can't nominate a reprint for awards, and awards are nice things for a magazine to have a chance at.

Anyway, from a poet's perspective, the goal is simply to be read -- some people want to publish books so they can get jobs at universities, but really, I think everyone just wants an audience. Publishing on a blog, taping your poems to telephone poles, shouting them from rooftops, can only help in being read. So we encourage that. Everybody wins. And I think it's fair to say that a poem only has one shot at a magazine in most cases -- just as you wouldn't put the same poem over and over again in every book you published, unless you eventually do a selected.

This isn't to say I want to become a vigilanty, and fight the journals that say "Published is published" -- that's their right, and that's fine for them...I just think it's a wasted opportunity, and not worth the trouble worrying about. If there were 10 or 100 poets publishing, and everyone read everyone, it would be a different story. But there as many great poems out there as there are readers who've never gotten a chance to see them.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Yes, Didi I understand your thought process a little better now.

Although just to explain for everyone else -- NTM's guidelines aren't changing, but I have reworded our acceptance agreement so that's it's 100% clear that we're the "first publisher."

Later this summer I'll add everything to NTM's online guidelines -- for the sake of clarity (nothing has changed). No rush to do that now, our reading period is currently closed.

At 9:59 PM, Blogger shann said...

All I want is clarity and reason, to know what a zine wants before I submit. If someone's guidelines don't suit me, I don't submit. Nothing has changed from my personal standpoint.

Thanks for bringing the discussion forward, editors just need to let us know, that's all.

At 12:22 AM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

The thing that amazes me about the Writer's Digest post is that apparently everyone on that panel agreed that reading your poem in public constituted publication. Good luck convincing people of that. Good luck policing it.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger DeadMule said...

We don't want poems that have been on personal blogs at the Dead Mule. (This is NOT my personal philosophy but one I must work under. I've been known to ask a poet to remove a poem from her blog so I could accept it. And I post my own poems and poem drafts to my personal blog.) I agree with Reb that as poets we must follow editors guidelines and as editors we have "wiggle room."

The logic of using only non-blogged poems, according to the Dead Mule editor Val MacEwan, goes back to the early days of the internet and the struggle to legitimize online magazines as "real publishing." Some of us got here after people like Val blazed the trail for us.

But the silliness of this problem goes both ways. I'm not about to search the internet to see if a poem was posted in an earlier revision. But we've had poets ask us to remove their poems from our magazine site, so the poem would be "virgin" again, and they could submit elsewhere. That's not only nonsensical but insulting. And can Val can write a mean response to something as stupid as that!

Helen Losse

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Pris said...

I, too, dislike policing of poems on our own blogs. My choice is simply not to submit to a journal with those stringent requirements unless acceptance in a particular issue is very important to me. I would hope this isn't a growing trend among editors. Blogs are how people begin to become familiar with our work, our name... My requests for poems to pulish have increased significantly since I've been blogging.

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Pris said...

BTW Helen's comment came up while I was typing. Her request for me to remove poems from my blog while in The Mule was very reasonable and , once I knew this was the policy, gladly did so. She didn't tell me she would NOT take my poems because they'd been on my blog first.

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Reb said...

Helen, that is insulting -- and if someone ever asked me to remove a poem from NTM so they could republish it as "first" somewhere else, not only would I refuse, I'd have some choice words for them.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger DeadMule said...

Just what Val did. I guess great minds think alike. LOL

At 11:57 AM, Blogger NancyB. said...

"The thing that amazes me about the Writer's Digest post is that apparently everyone on that panel agreed that reading your poem in public constituted publication. Good luck convincing people of that. Good luck policing it."

Stephen, it wasn't a matter of us agreeing that reading your poem in public constituted publication. Someone stated that their group's lawyer had told them that a poem presented to a public reading constituted "putting it out there for public consumption," one way that "published" is defined. It was news to me as well, and there was a lot of discussion about it. It all comes down to possible ramifications, and even in that discussion, people were making their own choices about whether they themselves would consider reading in public "published."

Understand that the Poetic Asides blog (under the Writer's Digest banner for corporate reasons it makes my head hurt to go into, but Robert Brewer and I don't technically belong to Writer's Digest Magazine) is for poets of all experience levels. Someone new to poetry publishing, wading into all this rigmarole, can't make an informed decision without knowing the ins and outs, including the "inconvenient truths" as held by some editors and publishers. I'm not trying to establish rules and laws, just general guidelines. That anyone in the world thinks I have the authority to make a final declaration about anything is news to me.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger Gary Norris said...

aw shit, reb...

the problem with the poem is that it is, in fact, an object that appears as an object to most readers.

and most readers have been taught to see objects as exchangeable things that belong (ontologically speaking) in the market.

thus, no market, no poem.

so why would you defile a poem by putting it on a blog, when you should honor it with publication in a journal.

shit, an established poet mentor/teacher of mine made an argument about books sitting on shelves in stores and libraries have some value that blogged (for lack of a better verb) writing simply doesn't have.

I know I have had to curtail my blogging. I wrote around 2500 words a day for two years on DagZine, in addition to my scholarly and prose/verse work. I am only just returning to blogging. I find it a way to write through discourse...see Nick Piombino on Fait Accompli and his old talk about language and thought.

Anyway, I was often scolded while still in the PhD program at DU for blogging so much. And I told one colleague that I find the criticism similar to the old myths about masturbation...that it's a waste: a waste of energy, a waste of resources, a waste of time, and therefore evil, wrong, a mistake, just plain deviant.

Well, that certainly gives an upperhand (hehehe, pun intended) to the couples out there...or, to switch back to writing, blogging is seen as a cheat to those who remain mired in the world of writing is only valuable in the book. that which doesn't appear in the book is not valuable.

there is also a DIY hatred out there. those of us who grew up in zine land know all too well the snobbery that exists out there.

the critics, of course, are the same people who make the most grand statements about the vows to poetry.

it's sad.

see you around...I hope you and your family are healthy and well.


At 5:10 PM, Blogger Mom said...

Hi Reb,

I have been writing about simuliar stuff on my blog saintelizabehstreet. I am interested in getting inside the heads of others and finding out why or why not editors publish stuff. This is my first experience with an editor considering a poem on a blog as published.
Jen B

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I keep writing Reb, asking her to include my poems on NTM instead of removing them. I get a mean letter too. So confusing.

Seriously, I post damn near every poem I write on my blog. I've never had an editor complain or ask me to take any down. I would if asked. A person could read maybe half of my 2nd book and all my 3rd if they wanted by skimming my blog.

The main reasons I post them is in the hope somebody might enjoy them; also, it helps me with revision; lastly, it's a repository--there are poems in my books I lost, deleted, or forgot and rediscovered looking back through the blog.

At 10:10 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Thanks to everyone who posted here. I no longer feel like the last (ham) sane person on the planet.

Lawyers are helpful when one needs a contract drawn up, but I hardly want them deciding the fate of poetry publishing.

Check out the acknowledgments in my upcoming book:

This poem first appeared scrawled on __________'s left ass cheek.

Props to all cheeks.

At 8:16 AM, Blogger JimK said...

Hi Reb;

Public-viewable forums are now in
the exact same boat as blogs,
so I think there are thousands
more "whores". Why is this

I suggest you visit eratosphere:
...and see some of the
much-awarded, well-known
poets who are now
(according to some standards)
in the same boat as you.
These are no lighweights.
Many would be a bit stunned that
their drafts are being declared
(in some quarters) "published"

Hope this provides you with some
interesting contacts. Check
the names.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger sam of the ten thousand things said...

I agree with you, Reb. That's my position at Blue Fifth Reveiw.

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

Nancy, a writer on your own blog citing the relevant law already pointed out that this poetry group's lawyer doesn't understand law very well. I think you're doing a disservice to your beginning poet readers by uncritically passing on misinformation.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Suzanne said...

I agree with Steven.

At 10:24 AM, Blogger NancyB. said...

Steve, Elissa Malcohn's excellent information appeared in comments after I'd posted my comment about the lawyers (why, I don't get--her post is timestamped before mine and I never saw it before I closed up for the day). I was out of touch over the weekend and just saw the information this morning. I'm not in the process of putting up Elissa's comment as a new post so readers will get the information. Thanks!


At 10:26 AM, Blogger NancyB. said...

SIGH...that should have said "now in the process" instead of "not." Mondays...


At 10:21 AM, Blogger sandra said...

Just a few notes for those passing my name and supposed remarks around out of context.

I worked for a print publication that had a firm policy against using material that had appeared anywhere else first. That included web sites. So, dear poet complaining about my adherence to that policy, I am still sorry that I couldn't use your work. My comment to you in the rejection slip was meant as a sincere compliment, because I truly wished I could have used your poem.

Secondly, I have never issued an opinion on the matter of public readings constituting publication. I am not an attorney specializing in intellectual property law. In fact, I think Elissa's notes pertaining to "in a fixed form" are germane. For example, if I read a poem in public and my friend records it, followed by the offering of the CD for sale, an attorney might indeed interpret that as "fixed form" and published. But I read for small and large groups all the time, and so do thousands of other poets. We do it while simultaneously submitting to publications in which we want our poems to appear.
I am not the publication police and so please do not make assumptions about my advice to poets.

My advice is, and has always been, to read the submittal guidelines of any publication -- print or online -- and to follow them. My advice is only advice anyway. In the end you will market your poems as I do -- the way you think best for your work.

There are some writers who are willing to throw ethics out the window by refusing to follow guidelines and excusing themselves by saying they deserve a wider readership. Hell, yes, you do deserve a wider readership. So do I. But while you are making personal decisions about your marketing practices, please do not denigrate editors bound to the standards of their particular press or those among us who slog along as best we can according to the standards set by publications in which we hope to appear. And don't quote me unless you do it correctly. Thanks.

Editors and writers are not adversaries. The Internet is changing our lives daily. I consider myself a cheerleader for poets and writers, not a rule maker. Those of us responsible for following policy at the magazines we work for are not apologizing for that because some writers don't like the policy. Send work somewhere with policies you do like. It seems an easy choice.
Best to you, Sandy Soli

At 3:54 PM, Blogger K.A. Bell said...

I'm with you 100% on this one. I think there's still too much snobbery and crony-ism in the po-biz, unfortunately. If an editor asked me to take a poem off my blog, I'd tell them where to stick it. I get sick of hearing all of this crap, really. A lot of these people are the same ones who rail against chapbooks being legitimate, and I don't even want to get started there. We, as poets, put poems out there (on blogs, at readings) for solely that purpose: to get them out there! At Chantarelle's Notebook, the only thing that pisses me off are simultaneous submissions, but that's mostly because people aren't reading the guidelines, and when they don't, I'll reject them on principle.


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