Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Hmm. . . sounds vaguely familiar.

The Boston Globe recently reported on a new website, foetry.com, dedicated to shedding the light on the dark and supposedly corrupt word of poetry contests at small presses. (Thanks to Tim for the heads-up.)

What's the big deal? Well, many small presses run poetry contests where they charge $25 or so for the opportunity to have one's manuscript read and potentially selected for publication at the sponsoring press by a celebrity judge. The presses claim that the entry fees offset the judge's honorarium, as well as the costs of publishing the winner. The most common objections are raised when a judge picks a former student's work or declines to pick a winner at all. Foetry seeks to "name names," and even seems to encourage legal action against what they consider to be consumer fraud.

I think that Kevin Walzer makes a more cogent point as quoted in the Boston Globe article. "There seem to be more people willing to pay for a chance to have their own book published (i.e., contest reading fee) than there are people willing to buy a book of poetry by someone else."

Scott Kaukonen put his grievance into words in an editorial on the Missouri Review's website. "I did not spend nearly $40 so that I could purchase two books of backlist poetry books [sic]. I spent $40 to enter a contest with the expectation that it would be adjudicated fairly and commitments honored."

In all truth, in light of Walzer's comment, I think that's exactly the problem.

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