gratis accepistis, gratis date

Someone who knows who they are writes (not very helpfully, in my view, at this point, but we won’t quibble):

Have you ever looked at Bill Knott’s work online? A rare example of an established poet who could get published anywhere, but who chooses instead to make everything freely available at his own site, for reading, copying or downloads. So kind of the opposite approach to most poets online. Bookslut interview. 

Go, qarrtsiluni!

Editor Dave Bonta informs us that qarrtsiluni has updated its submissions guidelines to allow blog-posted poems if they appeared on the author’s own blog temporarily, or in an earlier version.

The revised guidelines are here. For editors’ comments, scroll down to the end here.

Dave and co-editor Beth Adams write: While we do want qarrtsiluni to be a repository of original writing, we also want to encourage the growth of a literary blogging culture, so writers shouldn’t feel that they can’t submit something simply because an earlier version of it appeared on their blog.

What they seem to favor is a middle-ground position that many established blogging poets seem to take — posting a draft poem for a short while, taking it down for further thought and revision, and not posting the final version.

Which brings me to confess that my own thinking on this issue has evolved to this very point over the past few months I have been absent from this blog. Although I was not writing, I was actively revising and I wanted to submit widely. In some cases to places that do not address the question of blog-posted poems in their guidelines (grrr). I guess I could have queried everyone ahead of time, but I just wasn’t in that mindset, with that degree of strategic patience, at that point (it’s a long story). So instead, I just searched ‘whale poem’ and deleted every last draft that appeared on this blog.

That’s what I did. (And some of those early versions badly needed deleting, frankly.)

And in future I’ll be doing the quick-temporary-post thing. Until things change again. Which I’m not saying they won’t.

Much much more on the whole blog-posted poem debate at this link.

Meanwhile, send in those insect poems to qarrtsiluni!

melodious call for submissions

Here is a call for submissions that is music to these ears at least:

I do not desire material that has been previously published in other literary magazines, but stuff that’s been posted to personal blogs is fine.

Way to go! Clarity is all for the blogging poet. Blogging poets love editors who let poets know up front where they (the editors) stand on the blog-posted poem issue, so poets don’t waste editor-time or poet-time by submitting blog-posted poems to blog-posted-poem-haters.

You know.

‘Shit Creek Review’ editor on blog-posted poems

Paul Stevens is editor of the Shit Creek Review, which accepts blog-posted poems for publication.

Paul writes:

Up Shit Creek with a Previously Published Poem

Every issue of The Shit Creek Review has has had a major lesson for me. Issue #1 had the Limericks Overboard affair, discussed on this thread at PFFA. Someone sent in some witty limericks that I accepted and made a page for in SCR, with illustration and all – only to learn that in fact the witty limericks in question had been plagiarised from elsewhere. I had to bin the page. Obviously I am not in favour of including previously-published work of that nature. And as you can tell from that incident, my opinions on matters editorial are very much the opinions of a rank amateur who is making up stuff as he goes along.

The Shit Creek Review wants to publish good poetry. What it doesn’t want is to be tied down by hide-bound rules that would stand in the way of publishing good poetry. Previous publication in one of the 97 gazillion poetry ezines out there does not mean that a poem is likely to have been read in our particular pool of readers – and if it has, well, if it’s a good poem it will stand a re-read. And if a poem has been previously put online on the author’s personal blog, then to me that seems similar to its being in an author’s notebook and shown around to a group of friends. Poet’s blog readerships are generally not huge (though my own is approaching 50,000), and anyway a personal blog is a very different context from a selection of poems by many authors in a magazine-type format.

So I do not see previous publication as a major impediment to the inclusion of a good poem in The Shit Creek Review. On the other hand I would not want the whole zine to be composed of previously-published poems. What I do want is a good balance: perhaps a few great poems that have been published elsewhere, a lot more that are new. In a similar way, while SCR favours poems written in rhyme and metre – Formalist poetry – we don’t exclude vers libre poems if they’re good; in fact, again, we like to have a balance of types and styles.

What’s really important in all of this is the poets and the readers. I’m all for helping poets access as many venues as possible to further their readership, and for enabling readers to access a few bloody good poems that they would otherwise miss if they don’t happen to read every little ezine or print magazine that’s popping around the net and beyond.

I understand all the arguments supporting exclusivity, and I reckon that every editor is entitled to do as she or he judges best. That’s the whole point of running your own ezine, and what makes one different from another. The Shit Creek Review – as you can perhaps tell from its name – has never taken itself massively seriously, and has from the start sought to steer clear of preconceptions and received wisdom. In a discussion with another editor the other day we were trying to come up with a name for a new ezine, and I found myself saying this: I don’t think that I could conceive or edit a poetry magazine with a totally serious name. I need to have some ironic undercutting or humour: a really straight title would sit very uncomfortably on me. I suppose that somewhat flippant attitude of mine is embedded in The Shit Creek Review and is reflected in my failure to take even the issue of previous publication terribly seriously when picking good poems for SCR.

Let ten thousand poems bloom! And let some of them grow on into a second flowering!

Addendum: I sent this piece to Nic but luckily she spotted that I’d made a typo in the title: ‘Preciously’ instead of ‘previously’. C is next to V on my keyboard and my flying fingers had hit the wrong key; nor had I managed to pick up the error on re-reads; so Nic corrected it. But I wonder if there isn’t a little message from the subconscious infinite channelling through there: are we being just a little bit precious in demanding that poems we publish be absolute virgins? Maybe a vigorous verse with a bit of history might be fun too? Provocative, perhaps: blame the typo!


Many thanks for your comments, Paul.

Shit Creek Review’s submissions guidelines clearly reflect SCR policy with regard to blog-posted and online-workshopped poems.

More on the whole blog-posted poems issue here.

‘Inch’ editor on blog-posted poems

Inch editor Ross White comments on a post belowInch accepts blog-posted poems for publication.

Ross writes:

As an editor, I can see both sides of this, so Inch’s policy falls somewhere in the middle of the two extremes that I’ve seen show up here.

For the purposes of our print publication, we do not consider work that’s appeared in an online workshop, on a newsgroup, or on a personal blog to be previously published. We wouldn’t consider work that had been given in print form to your workshop group to be previously published, and if you left your diary lying around for your younger brother to read, we wouldn’t hold that against you.

The Internet is letting us do things today that we couldn’t do before, and there’s going to be a tense period while we re-configure our notions of public life and private life. But as long as people continue to post to their blogs with the attitude that it’s a personal space and the public just happens to be able to look in, poems there will remain akin to the poems in a print diary, at least as far as Inch is concerned.

However, if you send us work from a personal website or Internet workshop, we’ll politely ask (without requiring) that you take it down when the issue is published, and replace it with a link to our site. I think most editors do pride themselves on having the good sense to select the boldest and best new work, and we’d like to believe that we “discovered” your poem or story, y’know, for 45 minutes or so after the issue hits the stands. Let us maintain that illusion by sending your readers to our site, where we can claim to have “discovered” you and they can chuckle about how they knew you when. Hopefully, they’ll buy an issue to support you, and find something they love by someone they’ve never heard of.

And hey, we return the rights to your work, so if you put it back online, that’s cool. We thought it was good enough that we wanted people to see it when we printed our issue, and that hasn’t changed because we have a newer issue. We hope you’ll tell people how smart we were to have discovered your work before anyone else, even though all parties know that’s not entirely true.

By this logic, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to disallow previously published work from books, journals and websites that function as professional or semi-professional “publications.” Reb Livingston of No Tell Motel uses an editorial process to make this distinction, and this seems reasonable to me– they “discovered” your work before we did. However, if your work is available for sale in any arena (editor or no), that also counts as previous publication, and you probably feel the same way we do about it because you’ve put a lot of energy into convincing people your book is worth buying from that POD.

I have no illusions about how small the literary community really is, and no illusions about how much smaller Inch’s readership is. I would love to see both grow, but if I have to choose just one, I choose the former. Treating personal blogs as personal seems to allow for this growth more comfortably than the alternative. Poetry is going to end up in blogs, period; I feel little incentive to require that only the bad stuff be posted.


Thanks for participating in the discussion, Ross. Given the ambiguity surrounding the definition of “publication”, would you consider editing your submissions guidelines to reflect your position above?

More on the whole blog-posted poems issue here.

Definition of ‘publication’ & the importance of editors

It seems to me that refusing to consider blog-posted poems on the grounds that they constitute “previous publication” undermines the importance of the role of editor. It equates a blogger’s role with that of an editor. Reb made this point in her post and I find my thinking crystallizing around it.

One editor I corresponded with recently defined publication thus:

“I consider a work published if it’s been submitted to an editor who has chosen it.”

Which seems to me exactly right. Editors are creating a new product in their own right when they select pieces for their magazines. Each poem is one element of several they select to form a part of a new whole, the magazine.

Poet X’s work on is just that. Poet X’s work in SmokeLong is something else entirely – part of a much larger thing called SmokeLong, which is the artistic production of Smokelong’s editor. Which in turn is the reason I pick up SmokeLong.

Refusing to buy SmokeLong because I already read Poet X’s work on would be missing the point of editors entirely.

Imho, anyway.

More on the whole blog-posted poems issue here.

‘SmokeLong’ editor on blog-posted poems

Dave Clapper, founding editor of SmokeLong, which accepts personal-blog-posted poems for publication, comments on a post below.

Dave writes: 

While it’s true that we don’t accept previously published work at SmokeLong(except in special cases, like Almond and Dybek for an anniversary issue a while back), we don’t consider works posted on blogs or personal websites to be previously published. I know other publications differ on this. My reasoning is this–our rule isn’t in place so much for prestige reasons as it is to give as many authors as possible the shot to get that groovy feeling that comes with having their work accepted for publication. That feeling just isn’t so great (or hasn’t been for me in my writing anyway) the second time a piece is published as the first. We put the rule in place when we were complete newbies at this whole publishing thang, and that was our logic then. It still seems reasonable now.


Many thanks for commenting, Dave. Given the ambiguity surrounding the definition of “published” where personal blogs are concerned, would you consider editing your submissions guidelines to reflect your thinking on the topic?

More on the blog-posted poems issue here.

‘Blue Fifth Review’ editor on blog-posted poems

From Sam Rasnake, editor of Blue Fifth Review:

My view is that work posted at a personal blog or an online workshop is not published, unless the blog itself is an online journal – of which there are many. Should that work be accepted at Blue Fifth Review, I would ask that it be removed from the blog or workshop archives.

Sam also says (commenting here):

At Blue Fifth, I only accept unpublished works by writers.

I have a notebook blog where I post drafts of poems, hoping to obtain comments. I may edit the works or leave as is, but I only keep them posted for five or six days, then remove them. I have had several of those drafts accepted for publication – but those poems that have been accepted aren’t archived at my blogs. I don’t consider those poems to have been published simply because they appeared for a short time at my blogs.


Many thanks for commenting, Sam. Would you consider editing the Blue Fifth Review guidelines to reflect your policy on this issue?

*Update*: Blue Fifth Review’s guidelines now read:

The editor will consider work that has been posted on a personal blog, myspace or an online workshop with the following stipulation: Should the submission be accepted at Blue Fifth Review, the work should be removed all posts and archives of the blog, myspace, or workshop.

Thanks again, Sam!

More on the blog-posted poem issue here.

‘Juked’ editor on blog-posted poems

John Wang is editor of Juked, which does not accept blog- or workshop-posted poems for publication.

John writes:

No, Juked does not accept for publication poems previously posted to personal blogs or online workshops. This is because we don’t accept previously unpublished work, and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the situation/perspective) in the world of Internet publishing, if it’s readily available to be viewed by anyone, it is considered published. This includes personal blogs and any site, really, that people can click to. Online workshops is a gray area, but, as Eric Melbye pointed out, it takes too much time to discern on a case-by-case basis whether something has had a large enough audience, so to make things easier, we (editors of journals large and small) would rather just play it safe and say no.

I think Eric [editor of Segue] has already provided a clear and thoughtful response on the subject. Speaking as the editor of a smaller, independent journal, I would just say that we too have the pressure to publish only previously unavailable material. True, we don’t have a board to answer to, and we don’t have a school’s reputation hanging about our necks to look after, but smaller journals are under tremendous pressure to measure up. We have massive chips on our shoulders—we’re not the big guys, but we want to be as good, if not better, and we have to convince people to read us instead of the familiar names, so we’re always looking for ways to A) raise our overall reputation and B) carve out our own niche, make a space for our own identity. Both of which would require us to publish only fresh new work. Looking quickly around, I don’t see any serious independent journals publishing work that has already appeared elsewhere. Pindeldyboz doesn’t. Hobart doesn’t. Smokelong doesn’t.

Ultimately, I think the question comes down to: Why should somebody read us? Why would you go pick up a copy of Post Road or Tin House? Or why would you click over to any of the gazillion independent journals online? I suspect it’s because A) you think it’ll be good reading and B) you can’t find it elsewhere. If we published work that’s already widely available on the Internet, then we’re no longer bringing you something fresh and new, and we’re only as good as the next blogger who posts links to favorite reads.

The problem with anything online is: it’s there. Anyone can read it. And for all we know, a thousand, ten thousand might have already. It’s another matter when you write a poem on a piece of paper and show it to ten, twenty, two hundred people. But if it’s on the Internet, the editor will have to assume it’s been read by half the human population and well published.

Now, if a publication has a section where they link off to pages they think are interesting (analogous to the “Readings” section in an issue of Harper’s), rather than trying to present something as original work, then I can see it being done, albeit under a different context.

And, having just looked at what “Harry” wrote [in the comments section of Eric's post], I want to say that I think poetry is especially well-suited for the Internet. The Internet is all about short pieces—part of the reason why we see so much “flash fiction” and “micro fiction” now, particularly online. Poetry, in general, consists of short works (though not always, but usually), and it seems to me one can readily find better poetry online than fiction. This is also due to the fact that fiction writers have a tendency to save up their stories for print journals, while poets may be more willing to part with their poems for online journals. And there are many other reasons for that, but I’ll stop here for fear of rambling on for too long.


Many thanks, John. Would you consider editing Juked’s submissions guidelines to clarify this point? 

More on the blog-posted poem issue here.

Clarity from 2River

Richard Long has updated 2River’s submission guidelines. They now say:

2River considers unpublished poems only. An unpublished poem is one that has not appeared in any form of print or digital media, including personal or public blogs. A poem from a private, online workshop, however, would be considered, as long as the final version of the poem does not appear in a public space.

Thanks, Richard!

More on the blog-posted poem issue here.

Blog-posted poems again

Two of our recent guest-blogger editors, Eric Melbye of Segue and Susan Culver of Lily, have edited their submissions guidelines!

Segue’s guidelines now say:

We do not accept previously published creative work. “Previously published” includes final drafts published on blogs, personal web sites, etc.

Lily’s guidelines now say:

Lily’s editorial staff does not consider poems posted to a personal blog or an online workshop as previously published.

Many thanks to Eric and Susan. There are definitely two sides to this debate and clarity is all for the blogging poet. If you’re a poetry magazine editor with submissions guidelines that don’t address this point, please consider editing them for clarity. 

More on the whole blog-posted poems issue here.

Blog-posted poems redux

Many, many thanks to editors Eric Melbye of Segue and Leah Browning of the Apple Valley Review for framing the case against accepting poems posted to personal blogs and to editors Reb Livingston of No Tell Motel and Susan Culver of Lily for putting the case in favor of doing so (their respective thoughts appear in the last four posts below).

I’ve started a standing page listing publications on each side of the debate here (link also in the standing page column to the left), with, where relevant, some additional remarks from editors who responded to my queries while I researched this topic.  Many thanks to all those who took the time to respond. If you’d like to add to it, please post a comment.

The bottom line in my view is that the poetry editor community seems to be pretty much split down the middle on this topic, with good honest editors on each side of the divide.

So what’s the lesson for the blogging poet who posts poems to a personal blog? It’s a hard one. I doubt that every editor googles every submission (even those who state they prefer not to publish blogged poems must in fact at some point have done so without realizing it) so it must be possible to ‘get away’ with having posted a poem on your own blog with these editors.

One approach often seen is when poets post poems to their blogs for a short period of time then take them down so as not to fall prey to trawling editors. But even if they stay up on the blog for five minutes, they have been posted to a personal blog, surely, and don’t they therefore fall into the no-no category for some editors? From my point of view, this presents something of an ethical dilemma (although I see how others may not see it that way).

One definitive solution would be to refrain from putting a poetic syllable online until after publication (which would, in my case, definitely impoverish the writing process). Another is to be up-front with editors upon submission — which is what I am doing at the moment– adding this line to all submissions: These poems have been posted to my personal blog (URL below) but will of course be deleted when/if accepted for publication.

In more than one case, and despite careful perusal of submissions guidelines, I have only found out after submission that the editor is on the no-blogged-poems side of the debate.

So although I am not sure which way I will end up going on this one, what is clear to me is that there is currently enough ambiguity surrounding the definition of publication with regard to personal blogs to make it reasonable for editors to EDIT THEIR SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINES (pleeeeeez) and spell out their policy toward blog-posted poems. That way submitting poets don’t waste their own and editors’ time with ineligible submissions and we can all get on with our lives.

As a final thought, I tend to agree with Harry, who wrote in his comment on Eric Melbye’s post:

Personally I have have a sneaking suspicion that the poetry world hasn’t worked out its relationship with the internet yet in a more profound sense than just questions of submission guidelines. Poetry is a minority interest medium with a geographically dispersed readership, and it can be delivered successfully online. The fit between poetry and the internet just seems too good for it not to end up profoundly changing the way poetry is delivered to people.

Newspapers are haemorrhaging readers all the time and having to find ways of adapting to the brave new world; do we really believe that more than a very few print poetry journals are sustainable in the long term? I think the real question is how to do internet-centred poetry publication which is financially sustainable.

But I guess that’s a long argument for another day.

‘Lily’ editor on blog-posted poems

Susan Culver is editor of Lily, which does accept poems previously posted to a personal blog.

Susan writes:

First, to clarify Lily’s position on previously published work: The guidelines – as of this moment – state, “Regarding all submissions, previously published work will be considered as long as you still hold the rights to said work and state where it has previously appeared so we can give credit where credit is due.”

No, there’s nothing currently mentioned there about blogs and online workshops. Should there be? Well, yes, there probably should be and could be. And modifying the guidelines when it becomes apparent to myself and/or my editorial staff that they should be modified is not something that I struggle with.

Even though the guidelines already mention that previous publications are considered, the question then becomes whether, as with previous journal publications, it’s necessary when submitting to Lily to list that the work has been posted to a blog or workshopped online.

My personal feeling is this: I hope that every submission I receive has been workshopped in one way or another, prior to submission, whether it be through a physical reading group, an online workshop, a blog or even via email with an honest friend.

Why? Because if the work wasn’t meant to be read, then I dare say that there’d be no reason for publishing at all.

I believe it is the author’s right (and responsibility) to test the readability of their work with a smaller group of their choosing before offering it on a larger scale to the readership of a journal. It is the author’s right (and responsibility) to confer with other creative minds. To receive feedback that not only can improve a specific piece of work but can also hone the writer’s general skills and broaden their views of what they are hoping to achieve through their words. In a time where there are so many published writers and so many places in which to read good writing, it is the author’s right (and responsibility) to be a partner with the publisher in sharing their work and garnering a strong readership for it.

Workshopping, in my experience, makes for polished submissions. And polished submissions make for good reading. And – to answer my own question regarding Lily’s guidelines – no, I don’t really need to know whether you’ve workshopped prior to submission or not. I’m assuming you have.

Now, as for Mr. Melbye’s response, I’d like to reply to a few specific points, if I may:

1. “Journals with a small circulation and readership (usually created by individuals, often writing outside of the world of academia) accept previously published work regardless of where it originally appeared much more frequently than large-scale, academic/commercial journals do.”

I can’t speak for all small circulation journals, but as an “individual, often writing outside the world of academia”, I can say that it is my opinion that there is a whole world outside the world of academia. And, in that world, there are lovers of poetry. There are those who seek words not for their academic value, but for all the images and feelings they create. Somewhere, someone works a lot of long, hard hours and sometimes, beyond the basic act of survival, it is the dreams that come from a single, beautiful line of poetry that keep them going. That give them strength.

Somewhere, there’s someone who believes that they are alone. That no one has ever felt the way they’ve felt. Until they read a poem offered by a stranger and it speaks to them. And it tells them they are not invisible and they’re not alone.

I’ve been, and I am, one of those people. And there are thousands of situations I could list. Thousands of reasons for ordinary people to read poetry outside of the classroom environment, to want poetry and – yes – to write poetry. Academia often has little to do with the need for beautiful things.

2. “I’m guessing editors of such journals are in love with being editors and with the seeming authority that comes with that title, or they’re interested in sharing literature with the world regardless of whether it’s already been shared or not.”

No. And yes.

I’m not in love with the title. In fact, it often scares the heck out of me. With publishing comes this notion of publishing responsibly. Of having editorial standards. Of taking on the act of deciding – for the readers of one journal which has readers from all over the globe – what will be published. What I can offer the space to. What the readers will find in that space.

It means saying no a lot. Often when I want to say yes. It means saying no to people I admire and often not because I don’t appreciate the work but simply because, with limited space and time to work with each month, someone else’s work impacted me more.

It means saying no when I, myself, hate to be told no. It means sending out rejections for work to people who probably feel the same way I do when my own work gets rejected.

But then again, month after month, I also get to say yes. I get to present work that has touched me. Work that has conjured dreams and given strength. I get to say, “Wow, that was so good that I’ve read it a dozen times and I’ve gone to sleep with it running through my mind.” I get to hope, along with the writers of the work, that the readers feel it too.

That is what I’m in love with.

3. “To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t mind publishing work that appeared on a blog, or was previously published on a personal web site, especially if it was published years in the past. The problem is that that policy would create a slippery slope I simply don’t have time to navigate. I don’t have time to consider, on a case by case basis, whether a submission should count as a previous publication–I receive far, far too many submissions for that.”

I would venture to guess, admittedly without any hardcore statistics, that most “unpublished” work has actually been shared by the writer in one way or another before being submitted for publication. It has been emailed to a friend or colleague. It has been quietly workshopped and quietly polished in the hopes that you will find it worthy of being offered to your readership.

To say that you want something that has never been shared before so that you don’t have to decide on a case-by-case basis whether sharing constitutes previous publication is to say that you either want your writers composing their work in a vacuum or at least insisting to you that they have been writing in a vacuum. It is to say that you don’t want them – prior to sending it to you – trying it out on a readership or trying to find ways to make it better for your readership. I can’t reconcile that idea with the learning aspect of writing and publishing. Or with the real-world aspect of writing for publication.

While fully respecting and encouraging your right as editor to set your guidelines however you wish, I just wonder what ever happened to finding that work which takes your breath away and not caring whether it’s been published already or not. Only whether you can publish it now. Because it’s worth publishing. It’s worth being shared. Because the whole world should read it and you’re just thankful to have had the chance to be a part of that.

And, is the poetry community such a small one that your readers will see something in your journal and say – “Oops, I’ve already seen that in so-and-so’s blog or such-and-such journal and I can’t possibly fathom ever reading it again”? Is the poetry community such a pretentious one that it would dismiss you or your contributors if it ever saw the words “previously published” on one of your pages?

Yes, it takes time to read submissions. I have a staff of four volunteer assistants who spend a lot of their time helping me make sure that everything that is submitted to Lily is read and considered by more than one mind and one pair of eyes. That the work which amazes us doesn’t pass us by due to the number of submissions we receive. In this point, I think you and I agree. There is not enough time to consider on a case-by-case basis whether a submission should count as a previous publication or not.

I guess the main difference, though, is how we respond if it does, in fact, count as a previous publication.

Thanks again, Nic, for the opportunity to participate. Thanks, too, to Eric for his responses. There is much food for thought in this conversation.

Susan Culver

‘Apple Valley Review’ editor on blog-posted poems

Leah Browning is the editor of the Apple Valley Review which does not accept poems that have previously been posted to a personal blog.

Leah writes:

Before the internet, the term “previously published” was pretty straightforward for writers. Typing a poem onto a piece of paper and showing it to a few close friends, writing it in your diary, including it in your annual Christmas letter, or handing copies of it out to a critique group did not mean that the poem had been published in any traditional sense.

Technology has muddied this issue. For many people, blogs, personal webpages, and online critique groups serve these same purposes. The difference, of course, is that in most cases, the poem can now be accessed by anyone, at any time, from anywhere in the world.

Does your publication accept for publication poems previously posted to personal blogs or online workshops? If so, why, and if not, why not?

In general, no. I’ll answer this more specifically in a minute.

The Apple Valley Review falls into the first category that Eric Melbye described; it is a small-scale journal with no university affiliation. Still, like Segue, we do not knowingly read or accept previously published work.

In my particular case, there are two main reasons that come to mind:

First, there are millions of writers and great pieces of writing. I’d rather use my limited time, energy, resources, and space to promote writing that has not yet found a venue.

Second, accepting work that has been previously published in print journals delegitimizes online journals. I don’t want to be part of a second tier that only comes after “real” (i.e., print) journals.

However, this is not meant in any way as a criticism of any journal that does accept reprints. Giving a wider audience to great writing is a laudable pursuit, and I only intend this as an explanation for my individual decision regarding previously published work.

(Re: blog postings) Do your submissions guidelines clearly spell out your position in this regard?

No, I guess they don’t, for the same basic reasons that Eric Melbye mentioned in his post. There are so many different ways that writing can be used. If your poem was published on a series of postcards, has it been published? What if it appeared in your company newletter? A print ad? What if you sent it in an e-mail to all of your friends, and one of them put it on his website? Etc.

I’ll go back to blogs now, though, since that was the real topic here. I said that we don’t consider previously published work. So where do blogs fit in? Work posted on a blog is not published–not in the sense that you could add it to your resume or list it as a credit–but it is widely available. Judging by submission guidelines, it seems that whether these preclude publication in journals that don’t accept previous publication varies from one journal to the next.

In our case, this is a relatively small journal, and I do sometimes go on a case-by-case basis. I prefer work that has never been in print in any form, especially online because it’s already readily available. I have to come clean here, though, and say that I don’t necessarily rule a piece out because the writer posted it on his blog or the Poems page of his personal website six years ago. Very reluctantly, I’ve made a couple of exceptions.

I agree with Eric, though, that this is a slippery slope, and I’d be even more reluctant to make exceptions in the future. While I was thinking about this issue today, I pondered the fact that I’ve never considered a piece of writing posted on a blog “published.” But why isn’t this a form of self-publishing like any other? Wouldn’t a Lulu-published book be added to a list of credits or a resume? In both cases, the writer made the work available to an audience.

Regardless, the solution here seems simple enough. If you want to see your work published in a journal, either don’t post it on your blog, or wait until after it has been published in print or online and then post it on your blog. Alternatively, post it wherever you want, and only submit to journals that accept reprints. (I highly recommend Duotrope’s Digest to anyone who wants to search for journals using this or any other relevant criteria.)

My goal is to support and promote writers and their work. I think that most editors feel this way. And I feel that most writers operate in good faith: they attempt to follow submission guidelines, etc. Again, I agree with Eric, who may have been joking but still raised a valid point. Sometimes writers and editors can start to feel animosity toward each other, perhaps because of what writers see as arbitrary rules or editors see as a lack of respect for guidelines that usually aren’t arbitrary at all. This is a partnership, though, and listening to and supporting each other in any way possible only elevates and strengthens literature as a whole.

Best wishes,



‘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


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.