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.

1 comment:

  1. "I usually begin to think that the journal is just not the right fit for my poems" exactly - if you find a journal's admission process objectionable then do not submit - if it is something you feel you must have as a laurel - then you'll just have to suck it up.
    I like the idea of anonymous submissions - a poem must stand on its own and not within context of the other poems an author has written (uh chapbook?) or as a cache for the journal -
    It seems to me most reputable journals etc. divy up their acceptance between well known poets 75% or more and lesser known a lesser percentage - in order to keep their readership and "getting" a well known poet is a big win for their publication - but in the spirit of picking the best of the best isn't anonymous the best way to choose - you might say all your years of hard work and awards should count for something but isn't that just resting on your laurels - don't we want the voices of our generation hungry and sharp - despite the perceived injustice and inconvenience :-)


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