Sunday, June 05, 2011

Poetry book contest + updates on my Non-Contest Publishers Page

Anis Shivani, in a Huffington Post article about poetry book contests, makes an excellent point about how contests damage the art:

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?

My page of poetry book publishers who read outside of contests -- and presumably exercise this type of editorial judgment, rather than giving it over to grad student screeners -- has been updated. The venerable Tupelo Press was added, and also some information about reading periods and reading fees (the new sneaky way of getting the same amount of money as in a contest, but with a different evaluation paradigm).

I agree with Shivani's basic idea: we need to rethink in this country how poetry is edited and published if we don't want to see poetry further marginalized and made tepid and culturally insignificant. A lot of people like poetry and have never heard of any of the books being published to great fanfare. What's wrong with this picture? Publishers complain about the media ignoring poetry, but I wonder if there's a good reason it mostly gets ignored.


  1. The po-biz (contests, MFA programs, small press publishing houses, etc.) is one of the most corrupt enterprises going. Its tiny size is what dictates why nobody cares to do anything about it. Poetry committed suicide a long time ago. And there's no way to start over.

    I haven't bought a poetry book in just about two years. I doubt if I'll EVER buy another.


  2. Lori, my wife, pointed out that in the last hundred days I've purchased half a dozen poetry books (the best of them is Lee Rossi's latest). After reading the Shivani article, my frustration and anger at the current state of the po-biz got the better of me and my memory.

    But it should be true. There doesn't seem to be a better way to protest the current state EXCEPT boycott.

    Exposing the corruption and whining about its existence hasn't and doesn't work at ending it. So what is it we do now?

    Along the path we're currently on we'll never find another William Stafford and that's a considerable tragedy.