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.
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.
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.