Tim Green (Rattle editor) blogged today about David Alpaugh's excellent article on poetry book contests. He highlights David's contribution to analyzing the state of American poetry and what's wrong in it:
"... he [Alpaugh] might be best known for his influential essay “The Professionalization of Poetry,” first printed as a two part series in Poets & Writers in 2003. That essay detailed the sacrifices poetry has made to become a viable profession within academia–the diluting of talent, the rise of esotericism, the praise of the banal. In Rattle e.5, Alpaugh turns his attention from the university to the free market, exploring the opportunity cost of so much good intention–the founding of (yet another) poetry book contest."
Tim Green goes on to debate a few of Alpaugh's points, which makes for interesting reading, but he really got my attention on the subject of how little contest presses do for winners in promoting their winning books. He contrasts his own positive experience with Red Hen Press with reports from contest winners about essentially receiving, by way of publicity, "a box of books and a letter wishing them luck."
Which makes me want to ask again -- doesn't the self-publishing option seem more attractive, if you're more or less on your own anyway. An ad in P&W isn't all that costly, and Poetry Flash (with a print run of 22,000) is a downright bargain.