Monday, July 25, 2011

Bryant & Coletti/Stupid Poetry Book Contests/iNVASION OF tHE pOETRY eDITORS/

Following a review by "Maggie" at Amazon.Com of my new book of poetry When Hearts Outlive Minds, I wanted to check out the work of William Cullen Bryant. I did so, and, in addition to Bryant's amazing "Thanatopsis," I found the following poem which somehow, in both theme and color reminded me of my own poem"Backyard Appeal."

To the Fringed Gentian
by William Cullen Bryant
Thou blossom bright with autumn dew,
And colored with the heaven's own blue,
That openest when the quiet light
Succeeds the keen and frosty night.

Thou comest not when violets lean
O'er wandering brooks and springs unseen,
Or columbines, in purple dressed,
Nod o'er the ground-bird's hidden nest.

Thou waitest late and com'st alone,
When woods are bare and birds are flown,
And frosts and shortening days portend
The aged year is near his end.

Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
Look through its fringes to the sky,
Blue--blue--as if that sky let fall
A flower from its cerulean wall.

I would that thus, when I shall see
The hour of death draw near to me,
Hope, blossoming within my heart,
May look to heaven as I depart.

Backyard Appeal by Ed Coletti

Bluest sky moment,
I paint you as words
spring maple yellow.

Photinia bush
redden my flesh, be my sun,
rain memory has fled.

Mirror of sea,
sky unblemished blue,
sing your song.

Copper fields slip
green to cyan,
oxygen’s funny magic.

Black dog come to me.
Tell me what you fathom
beneath this our common ground.

Published in Blueline (2007)

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Poetry Book Contests

Jack Crimmins hipped me to this very interesting Huffington Post article by Anis Shivani about poetry contests. By the way, my non-poet friend and reader Duncan Lee offered the following reply to my recent publication of the dismal statistic regarding the problems older poets encounter in poetry contests,

Is it necessary for a poet to win? I can see that winning a contest can add to a resume, but does a poet need/want a resume? I'm not for or against entering contests, I do all the time in my favorite pastime (auto racing). Perhaps it's just a necessary evil, how else does a poet get recognition?

Poetry Book Contests Should be Abolished: Why Contests Are the Stupidest Way to Publish First Books by Anis Shivani

Huffington Post 6-2-11

In the May/June 2011 Poets & Writers, there's a feature on writing contests. Editor Kevin Larimer (all credit to him for asking the right questions) interviews four poetry first book contest administrators, Stephanie G'Schwind (director of the Center for Literary Publishing and editor of Colorado Review), Michael Collier (director of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference), Camille Rankine (program and communications coordinator at Cave Canem Foundation), and Beth Harrison (associate director of the Academy of American Poets and administrator of the Walt Whitman Award), discussing issues of fairness, impartiality, process, revenues, and results. (Full Disclosure: I've been published in Colorado Review and consider G'Schwind an excellent editor; and I know Collier from Bread Loaf).

The contest model means a poet submitting a manuscript with a fee of around $25, and being part of a pool of anywhere from a few hundred to more than a thousand manuscripts judged "blindly"--we'll see soon what that means in poetry contest parlance. The winner gets about a thousand dollars along with publication, and publicity in cloistered academic poetry circles. The 999 losers print out another copy of the manuscript and write another check to yet another contest, never giving up hope.

Poetry contests are about the only remaining way to publish a first poetry book. And that's one way poetry is being killed in this country, reduced to consensus-by-committee, stripped of individual vision, yielding vast parchments of conformity and mediocrity, worth only as means of boosting resumes and securing academic jobs. Our poetry is haunted today by a blind adherence to lack of ambition--and the poetry contest model is part of the problem.

Is this the best way to discover new poetry talent in the country? What happens to editorial judgment, consistent aesthetic vision, commitment to particular values, building a movement, advocating for a particular style, and creating a critical mass of new writing if the contest model is allegedly based in "impartiality" and "blindness"--in other words, pretends to be the exemplar of democracy, egalitarianism, and disavowal of values? Has institutionalization gone too far? Would we all be better off--far-fetched as it sounds--if the contest model were eliminated and consistent editorial judgment were allowed to enter into the process of first book publication again? Read the full Shivani article here.

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Katherine Hastings sent along this amusing to-the-point piece by David Alpaugh. Take a look.


The Invasion of The Poetry Editors

We can only consider submissions during our reading period--July 1st to July 15th. Poems received on June 30th or July 16th--or any of our other (hallelujah!) 348 non-poetry-reading days will be tossed into our dumpster unread. (Editors have lives to live, places to go, pot to smoke; and no one can expect us to read scores of crappy poems 365 days a year!)

We do NOT want to see meter or rhyme. Rhyme because its huge popularity via rap, rock, slam, cowboy poetry, light verse, greeting cards, and advertising (ugh to all that shit!) might attract the great unwashed, whereas our goal is to provide 'caviar to the general' (and we don't mean Petraeus). Meter because it asks us to approach poetry as a quasi-musical composition, whereas we all know that it is merely a sub-species of prose where the 'poet' imposes an arbitrary line and stanza structure to make boring personal anecdotes look like stuff remembered from Norton Anthologies back in Freshman Comp.

We ONLY want to see meter and rhyme. If you are writing antiquarian verse on stock themes--'Love,' 'Time,' 'Death'--using predictable end-rhyme and dee-dumb-dee-dumb pentameter that make your 'work' a footnote to stuff written by dead white guys centuries ago--send it along. (All we ask is that you know the difference between an anapest and an amphibrach!)

We adore ghazals, pantoums and other faddish imports--anything without a track record in English (faux form always raises the non-Emily-Dickinson-hair on the back of our non-poetic-necks). We abhor native forms that have produced 'The Best Loved Poems of the American People' (please, no couplets, quatrains or--heaven forfend!--sonnets). Poetry being 'what gets lost in translation,' we love to see poets like Rumi, Rilke, Neruda, Hikmet disappear in a puff of prose!

Before submitting, be sure to check our web site for the upcoming THEME. Our Spring 2011 issue will be devoted to Poems about Spiders. Send us a poem about a flea or tiger, and we'll return it nine months later with a note scrawled across your cover letter that WE'RE ONLY READING POEMS ABOUT SPIDERS, STUPID! (If you don't have a poem with eight legs write one!) We wouldn't know a great poem if it bit us on the ass, but, damn it, we know a passable spider poem when we see one! Besides making our job easier by cutting down on submissions, telling poets what to write allows us to piss on our bete noir--ORIGINALITY. (The theme for our Fall issue will be 'My Summer Vacation.')

Short poems have a much better chance than long ones. To be candid, we are not so much publishing poems as accrediting poets. Send us a superb multi-pager--a 'Howl' or 'Prufrock' or 'Mauberly'--and you are, in effect, asking us to accredit one poet versus three or six or ten. (Who the hell do you think you are?--John Fuckin' Milton?) Publication is about something much more important than readership! That job at Cuckamonga Community College or reading at the Bonky-Bonky-Bo Book Shop may depend upon it! In order to accredit as many poets as possible we frown upon 'long' poems (which we define as any piece of chopped prose that exceeds 36 lines).

We do require a short bio with your submission. Only a few contributors (and their Facebook sycophants) will actually read your poem--but all will want to compare their credits against yours. Did YOU win the Conkerman Prize? Spend a week at the Daughters of Robert Bly Writer's Retreat in Northern Idaho? How many of the 75,000-plus Pushcart Prize 'nominations' have you arranged for yourself over your career? (Lyn Lifshin has more than 200!)

Speaking of prizes, we urge you to enter our poetry contest. You can't expect us to cover even a fraction of our production costs via our seventeen subscriptions (and no one is crazy enough to waste money advertising to a half dozen or so community college adjunct instructors who supplement their incomes by waiting tables at The Olive Garden). If you and 1000 other wannabes fork out a measly $25 you'll each have a chance to win $1000 and publication in our prestigious journal--and we will gross $25,000! That should allow us to pay the winner and grand prize judge; print 1000 copies of a 60-page 4-color paperback for distribution to the 999 losers; and still have $10,000 to remunerate our editorial staff for their tireless efforts on your behalf. Everybody wins! (except the losers--but, hey, y'all have much better odds with us than with Powerball!).

© David Alpaugh 2011

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paulagraph said...

Very funny. Enter anywhere in this piece for a nod. Doesn't matter which wavelength of the poetry or prose spectrum one is currently on. Can't win for losing. Or vice versa.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ed, Backyard Appeal feels like a string of haiku-like moments ... Don

Jeanne Powell said...

Thank you for the clarification.

And thank you for realizing that there is no aesthetic quality to the "blog" word. I even asked Red Room to remove the word "blog" and replace it with "essay" on the site, but they could not fly in the face of widespread acceptance of the term.

Jenny Lee said...

Superb blog...
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