Thursday, February 28, 2013

Who Is That Masked Poet?

Every time I check out a journal's guidelines and find a request to remove all identifying information from my submission, I feel mildly annoyed. It's not a huge big deal, but I find it sort of a pain to have to highlight and delete my name and address from each poem as I combine the poems into one file. This request is usually accompanied by a directive not to include a cover letter or credits.

Mostly what annoys me is the claim of objectivity and the desire to just take the best work while not being seduced by names or credits. Shouldn't an editor be able to rise above partiality and the allure of names? Shouldn't the editor be able to simply weigh and evaluate and respond to the work, even if the poet's name is there? I mean, really, isn't that what editors are supposed to do, that is, make objective judgments?

I just checked out the site of a new online journal. (Notice that I've removed its name so as to appear impartial!) This journal specifies that all names must be removed, etc., etc. However, the first issue of the journal consists entirely of pieces that were solicited by the editors. I guess that means they invited poets whose names and work they knew, right? Hm. Isn't there a contradiction going on here?

I know it's a rather standard procedure for new journals, print and online, to solicit work for the first issue. The goal is to set a high standard for subsequent issues. That makes sense to me and is unobjectionable. But to say thereafter that we don't care who you are sort of strikes me as hypocritical.

Perhaps I'm putting too fine a point on this, but I generally keep going when I'm asked to remove identifying information. It just seems silly to me. On the other hand, I think it's a good policy for a contest or a fellowship.

The other day I checked out a set of guidelines from a journal that had just put out a call for submissions. Unlike almost every other journal that uses online submissions, this one requires that the submitter submit each poem as a separate file. The editors say that's how they read the poems so that's the way they want to receive them. What a nuisance! I don't understand how or why receiving five poems in one file would preclude reading the poems individually, one at a time. I've even seen guidelines where the editor specified a font style and size. I've seen guidelines that specify which side of the page should contain the poet's name.

I read and heed guidelines, but when they're idiosyncratic,  I usually begin to think that the journal is just not the right fit for my poems.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Just Another Poetry Scam

I wonder if any of you have received the same phone call I received last week. A guy called asking for Diane Lockward, the writer. I said that was me. He then explained that he worked for some TV station and the producers were planning to do a feature on a writer. They were going to select a writer who wasn't yet hugely famous and they expected to catapult that writer into huge fame. I was one of three candidates for this program. He did a lot of name dropping—Judge Wapner, Judge Judy, Jim Masters, Doug Llewelyn. He asked a few questions, but very few, about my writing. He asked me to go to this TV website and to view one of their videos. It was very nice. That, he said, was the sort of video they would do for me—if I were selected. He was quite a fast talker. A dangler of carrots.

Finally, I got to ask, Okay, so where does this go from here? He said I'd first be interviewed by phone by a board of eight. He said the other two writers had already been interviewed and we needed to move fast on this. I asked when I'd be interviewed. He said within 48 hours, maybe that very day. By now I'd been on the phone for almost 30 minutes and had already begun to think this was a cartload of nonsense. I wasn't sure if the guy even realized that I'm a poet although he did say that they (who?) liked my work because it wasn't offensive. Is that supposed to be good? He was vague about how he'd obtained my name.

He kept talking and talking, repeating what he'd already said. Then finally he slipped in something about they would make a DVD for me and I'd get 12 copies and could reproduce and distribute them. Hm. Who's going to pay for that, I thought. He asked if my time was flexible. If the Ricki Lake show called, could I hop on a plane to California?

Then he said they'd be investing $40,000 in me and I'd contribute just $5000. Really?? I then asked, Okay, let me be clear—are you saying I would have to give you $5000 right now? Answer: Yes. I then said there was no way that was ever going to happen and ended the call.

Could that scam possibly work on anyone? I hope not. Don't these people know that poets don't make that kind of money? If you get that call, don't let the guy even waste your time.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Crafty Poet: A Progress Report

This morning it went sailing off to my publisher! At last. That is, the manuscript for my forthcoming craft book, The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. This is the accumulation of about two and a half years of work, most of it culled from this blog and my monthly Poetry Newsletter. The challenge in doing this book was the organization of a good deal of material into a sensible whole. I spent a long time just staring at piles of paper on my kitchen table, thinking and thinking. Then weeks of outlining, rearranging, breaking one section into two, joining two into one, filling in some holes. Then the big job of compiling all the separate pieces into one humungous file on the computer. Then because I don't trust myself to proofread accurately on the screen, I printed out the whole thing and proofread, fixed, reprinted, proofread, fixed, etc. Numerous times.

While stylistic differences from one newsletter to the next don't matter, in a book they do. So I spent a lot of time making things consistent. What's the difference between "into" and "in to," "onto" and "on to." Did I want "line breaks" or "linebreaks," "free write" or "freewrite"? And oh my, which numbers should appear as numerals and which as words? Should numbered lists be indented or at the left margin? Some were one way, some the other. I had to take notes about how many line spaces to leave between different kinds of headings. Then go back and be sure I'd done it the same way from one section to the next. Finally, I reached the point where it seemed about as right as it was ever going to be and I said, Time to let her go.

Side view. Look how plump she is! 

That pile in the middle is all the previous print-outs. Obviously, I've gone broke on paper and ink cartridges. That pile does not include the finished manuscript.

This has been a long process—and still isn't over. I've spent months putting this book together. It's a different kind of challenge than putting together a book of poems. But it has been exciting and hugely gratifying. I have around 100 amazing poets in the book. I am so grateful to each one for his or her contribution. Names and contents to be released in a later post.

Now the manuscript is with my publisher and I will wait to get it back for some more proofreading after he whips it into shape. Yes, more proofreading! The book should come out this summer. In the meantime, it's back to poetry for me. And a celebratory dinner out tonight seems in order.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New Online Journals

Online poetry journals are proliferating. Seems like I'm routinely receiving notification of yet another one. A few of these notices are about former print journals that have converted to online, but most are about brand new journals. Not all online journals are created equal. Because anybody can start one and often for free, there is a broad disparity in quality. Submitter beware. Always thoroughly check out the journal before you submit. If you wouldn't be proud to have your work appear in the journal, don't submit.

A few caveats:
1. Avoid journals that are really blogs masquerading as journals. These reveal a lack of commitment and generally have limited archive space. If a journal doesn't archive issues, steer clear.
2. Especially avoid a journal that posts all poems on the same page and requires the visitor to scroll down. Most readers won't bother.
3. Avoid journals with dreadful color combinations and weird fonts. You want your work to be nicely displayed.
4. Avoid journals with overly complicated navigation. Readers don't want to have to jump through hoops to find your poems.
5. Gravitate toward journals that make their presence known by using Share Buttons and having Facebook and Twitter accounts. It amazes me that some online journals still haven't added these features. They're free and can dramatically extend the journal's reach. When I find a poem I really like, I like to hit the Share Button at the bottom of the page. A link to the poem then posts on my Facebook page and is available to all my friends.

Here's a list of some fairly new online journals that are worth taking a look at:

Birdfeast Magazine—2x
poetry only
reads all year
Linked Table of Contents allows for easy movement from one poem to the next
No Share Buttons

poetry, essays, reviews
submissions will reopen April 1
Facebook Share on home and TofC, but not on the poem pages

Four Way Review—4x
reads all year
poetry and fiction
no Share buttons
good navigation buttons
great audio with each poem

Heron Tree—1 poem per week
online but plans to print a bound issue yearly
poetry only
poems are posted weekly, on Sunday evening
link to the weekly poem opens a pdf page which I find a bit unwieldy
no Share Buttons

the museum of americana—4x
reads June and December only
work focuses on things americana—"showcases and/or repurposes historical American culture"
poetry, fiction, interview, reviews, nonfiction, art & photography
Share Buttons throughout issue

Sleet Magazine—2x
regular posting period not posted but is currently reading subs
includes poetry, fiction, interviews, and what they call "irregulars," i.e., cross-genre pieces
will consider previously published work
no Share Buttons

poetry only
open all year—accepts on a rolling basis
very quick response time
one print edition per year
No Share Buttons

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