The material on Whale Sound is generated partly through submissions (self- and third-party) and partly through solicitations. The project is a lot of fun, but also a lot of work, and I have to find ways to maximize the effectiveness of the time I have to spend on it. Submissions will carry on as they are, but one thing I’ve now decided is that I won’t be soliciting material from any poet without an active online presence.
On the conceptual plane, Whale Sound is a web-dependent project – it simply could not have existed pre-web – and focusing on web-active poets strikes me as a good way to honor the project’s essential ‘webness’. But there are some eminently practical considerations behind this decision. Here they are, wrapped up in the three questions I now ask myself before pursuing any solicitation:
1. Does the poet have work freely available online, as opposed to locked up in print journals or in copyright-sealed print collections? I’ve had some experiences with trying to get permission to include such text on Whale Sound. Although I succeeded in one case – and still love the piece in question – I quickly decided that dealing with publishers and agents and filling out forms, sending endless emails and/or being asked to pay for usage is simply too much trouble – however amazing the piece – when the supply of freely available amazing online pieces is frankly enormous. After a couple of months on the project (and the levels of poetry-dross out there notwithstanding) it’s absolutely clear to me that Whale Sound won’t exhaust freely available online poem amazingness for years to come.
2. Is the poet easy to contact? In some cases, I’ve found a piece online I really liked that lacked contact info in the journal bio. A Google search did not throw up a website, blog or Facebook page for the poet. What next, then? In three instances, I emailed the editor of the online publication and got two positive responses, the third is still out there after several weeks. In another case, after much searching, I found an email address online buried in small print and linked to the poet’s day-job and got lucky that way. But again, I have a life and a day-job of my own and this is all just too much trouble, given the quantity of excellent work out there attached to an easily-contactable poet with an active online presence.
3. How will the poet promote his or her Whale Sound reading? Do they have an active website/blog or active Facebook/Twitter accounts? The more each poet promotes their own reading, the more they promote all the other poets on Whale Sound. It’s collective self-promotion. The entire project benefits most from including poets with an active web presence, since that raises the level and intensity of that collective self-promotion. Of the three considerations I list here, this is the least pressing to me, since I think the levels of collective self-promotion already at play on Whale Sound can afford to carry a few less-active-online poets, but I’m keenly aware it’s a balance I need to keep in mind.