‘No Tell Motel’ editor on blog-posted poems

Coming from the other side of the discussion from Segue’s Eric Melbye (see previous post), here are some thoughts, reproduced with permission, from Reb Livingston, editor of No Tell Motel, which doesn’t deem blog-posted or workshopped poems previously published and therefore considers them for publication. Reb has previously discussed this issue in this post on her own blog.

Reb writes:

No Tell Motel does not accept previously published poems. Our definition of previously published does not include poems posted on the author’s personal blog, or posted on a newsgroup or what not. We don’t want poems already selected by another publication, another editor/person — but how the author chooses to share her own work, within her own sphere, by her own hand – well, that’s her business. We encourage her to generate a readership. That’s how we get new readers — and our chance to introduce these new readers to the other poets published on our pages.

If there’s an editor involved, someone else publishing the work — that’s when we consider it “published” — and no, we don’t explicitly state this in our guidelines, but we should. I’ll put that on my list of things to do this summer.

As you know, I already discussed this topic in general on my blog a few weeks ago. I don’t wish to go tit for tat with Eric — I’m pretty crushed with deadlines and travel at the moment, but will say this:

Publications have the right to make their own rules for what they accept and don’t accept. They should be clear and upfront about what they will consider and what they won’t.

With that in mind, every author should take these rules into account when submitting work. If an author believes there to be a conflict of interest, she should not disregard and break a publication’s rules — she shouldn’t submit to that publication, period. Personally, there’s a number of magazines I won’t send to because I disagree with how they operate. And if somebody takes issue with how NTM operates, they shouldn’t submit to us either.

Yes, it’s definitely true, NTM is beholden to no one, we have no board, no trustees, no university affiliation — THANK GOD! Where people ever got the idea that kind of set-up is good for poetry, I’ll never figure out.

Then again, there is harm if I publish crappy work. I become the editor of the crappy magazine that publishes crappy poems and then the only work sent my way is crappy poems by crappy poets. Clearly that’s not something I want.

I get the sense from Eric’s reply that he’s saying publications with different definitions or guidelines aren’t interested in goodness or are desperate for goodness any way they can get it because nobody good will send them any good work.

Hmm, well, despite differing editing/publishing philosophies — NTM and Segue both publish a number of the same poets (Denise Duhamel, Robyn Art, James Grinwis, Francis Raven, Kate Schapira, Matthew W. Schmeer, Nate Pritts, Ann Neuser Lederer) and looking over their contributor notes, NTM has ahem, declined an even longer list of poets appearing on their pages. Which is not to say those are not talented poets as well, or the poems published in Segue were not good, or even totally fabulous — (and I don’t mean that in a bitchy way, I’m sure Segue can go through the NTM archives and find poets or possibly even poems they turned down). NTM turns down 95%+ of the work received for a variety of reasons, meaning we turn down a fair share of good work, meaning we’re quite selective — despite our daring to accept a poem that appeared on a poet’s personal blog. And our reading period is closed for 4-6 months a year because we get *too much* work.

Treating poems as commodities is ridiculous and kind of detrimental — and yes, there are exceptions. Blackbird‘s publication of a found Sylvia Plath poem was definitely a commodity that involved an estate and lawyers and next of kin and so on. How often does that happen? Is that even a good thing?

NTM‘s readership likely surpasses the readership of most small and medium circulation print poetry journals, possibly many of the larger circulation ones as well — as does any good online poetry magazine. In fact, publishing poets with a strong internet presence *increases* our readership. I believe the journals with antiquated rules about not accepting work that’s appeared on personal blogs and websites are defeating themselves, the poets and the poems. Those magazines have every right to do so, and as long as poets know what the deal is when they’re submitting and are OK with it — and if everyone’s consenting and adult, hey, free country.

But I do think there are both some poets and publishers who have lost their way, cling to the old modes of doing things for very little reason other than that’s the way it’s been done before. They do this at their own peril. Which of course, is their right.

Best, Reb

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A gazillion thanks, Reb!

If you’re a poetry magazine editor and would like to guest-blog here on this same topic, please email me at nic_sebastian at hotmail dot com.

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9 thoughts on “‘No Tell Motel’ editor on blog-posted poems

  1. Reb wrote:

    “I get the sense from Eric’s reply that he’s saying publications with different definitions or guidelines aren’t interested in goodness or are desperate for goodness any way they can get it because nobody good will send them any good work.”

    Though I hope it’s not the case, there probably are editors who “aren’t interested in goodness or are desperate for goodness any way they can get it because nobody good will send them any good work.” However, that’s not at all what I was trying to say. I was only trying to highlight the fact that different literary journals exist in different contexts, and those contexts often influence how and what an editor accepts/publishes.

    ***

    Reb wrote:

    “But I do think there are both some poets and publishers who have lost their way, cling to the old modes of doing things for very little reason other than that’s the way it’s been done before.”

    I think this is an unfortunate truth, but the posts in this discussion help illuminate the many different modes of doing things, and how they impact editing, publishing, and writing. That’s a good thing.

  2. “I get the sense from Eric’s reply that he’s saying publications with different definitions or guidelines aren’t interested in goodness or are desperate for goodness any way they can get it because nobody good will send them any good work.?”

    And that’s so convenient for him, huh? Eric’s the creme, you know. His ramble is typical for an ‘alsoran’ with a comfortable niche and a desire to fuel his delusions of competence and high accomplishment. And rationalizations don’t have to make sense, all they need do is inflate an ego. If Eric were any more full of himself, his gas bag would burst. No, really. If he was really just trying to answer the question for his rag he wouldn’t have mentioned any BUT his rag. Not so subtle put downs for his competitors reveals what? A petty spirit? A man with a rag that isn’t worth reading?

    -blue

    No Nic, not doom either. A pin for a hotair balloon.

  3. “No Nic, not doom either. A pin for a hotair balloon.”

    It looks like plain bad manners to me, Blue. If you can’t disagree respectfully, and substantively, would you mind commenting on your own blog – with a link to this post, if you like?

    Thanks, Nic

  4. I feel badly that my posts here have been misunderstood, especially by poets like Beau Bridges, whose work I admire and respect. I’d appreciate a more substantive response from him–and others–so that I can clarify any of my unintentionally muddled ideas. I *knew* I shouldn’t have written my response at 1:00 AM…

  5. Mr. Albee,

    I admire Beau Bridges’ work, too. The Fabulous Baker Boys is 5 star.

    ‘I think pieces that appear on personal blogs are published because .. ”

    Too hard to do without a little nose in the air at your brothers? If it’s done on purpose the motivation for the side-trip is SOP provocation-de-jour? Like the Bridges thing, right? But who? Why? If it’s not done on purpose, well, I wouldn’t buy a car from you. Your rambles wander and gas is too high. Time even more so.

    Nic, No one comes to my blog for comment or to comment. It’s a placeholder for the cafe. No forum in the cafe either, tho’.

    “Please don’t comment again, Blue” works, you know. And I won’t.

    I was a design team leader at Lockheed for a long, long time. The coolest part of the job was trying to determine if the ‘registered brilliant guy’ in front of me knew what he was talking about. There was no easy way to get one of ‘em back from extemporizing ’til the very end of their diploma, you know.

    -blue

    * *
    *

    “Bad manners? Now there’s a definition that might include hot air at 1 am, huh? Maybe not …”

  6. Beau,

    The phrase you’re quoting from my original response isn’t actually in my response, but I think you’re responding to my first paragraph, where I offer some guesses about why some smaller journals might accept previously published material. In hindsight, I can see where that sounds as though my nose is up in the air. That wasn’t my intention, that’s not who I am, and I regret coming off that way to some folks. You’re right: writing my response when my brain was half asleep was inconsiderate of me.

    So I apologize if my tone anywhere sounds offensive, but I stand by what I was trying to say, which is simply this: there are different sizes and types of literary journals, and there are different worlds they exist in (private, academic, commercial, etc.). Those factors create different reasons for their publication policies. In guessing at some of the reasons for various types of publication policies in those different worlds, I was trying to place Nic’s question in a larger context to spur some discussion. I wasn’t trying to provoke, criticize, judge, or place myself above anyone else, and I certainly wasn’t trying to offend. For example, one of my guesses was that some editors might be “in love with being editors and with the seeming authority that comes with that title.” I didn’t say “all editors except me,” and I wasn’t passing judgment on those editors, either. I’m merely guessing that some editors are editors because they love the title/authority. And I’m still willing to bet that’s true. But that’s their right. I’m not judging them, only trying (inadequately, I admit) to place Nic’s question in a larger context for discussion’s sake.

    If memory serves, the only negative criticism I offered was aimed at myself for not thinking this whole issue through years ago, and for sometimes following along unthinkingly with the status quo of the academic world I’m a part of. Nic’s question and the comments here have been very educational in encouraging me to more closely examine my publication policies, and making some changes. Even your comments were helpful, Beau, though in a different way, and in spite of your rudeness.

  7. Pingback: Definition of ‘publication’ & the importance of editors « Very Like A Whale

  8. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
    And according to this article, I tottaly agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)

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