revisiting ten questions for poets – on poetry, publication, technology

This series represents a wealth of poetry and po-biz wisdom from a bunch of awesome contemporary poets. I used to have these linked as separate standing pages, but didn’t refresh that format when I changed blog themes recently. Have just added these standing pages back to the left-hand column, and got lost in re-reading while I did so. Thank you once again to the generous poets who participated for doing so! That wonderful group includes Ron Silliman and the late Reginald Shepherd.

poets on poetry
poets on publication
poetry editors on publishing poetry
poets on technology

Are you a professional or non-professional poet?

Read with interest this blog post by Charles Jensen, in which he wrote:

Over the last few years, I have encountered and had the pleasure to work with some amazingly talented poets who live entirely outside the academy. I’ve come to understand this is more common than many people think, particularly those who spend the majority of their lives and careers within the academy.

These “outsider” poets generally have no idea that poetry is so entrenched in higher education. They perceive poetry as open to everyone, not as a cloistered and privileged pursuit. They have less awareness of the inner machinations of what some folks call “pobiz” and are generally the happier for it. They may or may not have heard of AWP if they’ve attended it. They read many poets, focusing, perhaps, on what their friends in their poetry circles are reading, what has been nominated for national awards, or what their booksellers or librarians recommend. I think this community of poets is growing not more larger, but more visible.

There is this duality in the poetry community, although I tend to think of it as professional / non-professional, rather than academic / non-academic. The professional poets, in my mind, are the ones whose living is somehow tied to poetry — whether writing it, or teaching it, or both. Each hour of teaching, each publication credit, everything they read or write or do as a poet, has a potential or actual dollar value for this group, and all their decisions need to be taken with this fact in mind. (I hasten to add that I am in no way asserting that anyone is ever foolhardy enough to try and make a living actually selling poems. What money there is in poetry definitely does not come from selling poems.)

The non-professionals (people like me) earn their livelihood in some way completed unrelated to poetry and do the poetry thing pretty much as a hobby. (Although labeling poetry ‘hobby’ doesn’t seem right – in fact screechingly un-right – but I guess that’s a separate post.)

Obviously, the common factors that unite the two groups (addiction to writing and reading poetry, desire to be read and understood etc) are much stronger than those that separate them, which is probably why the separating factors don’t tend usually to get much play.

It’s funny – Charles’ sense seems to be that there are more ‘professional’ than ‘non-professional’ poets out there, and I always had it figured in my head the other way around completely. It has always seemed to me – based purely and vaguely on the evidence of anecdote, impression and interactions with other poets over the years – that most of at least the online poetry community is ‘non-professional.’

Am I wrong there? Are we mostly professional poets online, do you think?


I wanted to share Louise Gluck’s poem of this title, but couldn’t find it anywhere on-line to link to.

Although it’s good, it’s not so good that I’m going to use up five minutes of my life typing it out in this blog post.

Whose loss is that, I’m wondering?


Wow. Check this out. Makes you wonder yet again what goes on inside the plagiarist’s head. Ethical and moral considerations aside (and goodness knows they are many and weighty), in this day of instant searches and perenially accessible information, behavior like this just seems really, really dumb.

Sorry to hear about this with regard to your fine work, Barbara Jean.

poetry discussion lists

Poetics List: Our aim is to support, inform, and extend those directions in poetry that are committed to innovations, renovations, and investigations of form and/or/as content, to the questioning of received forms and styles, and to the creation of the otherwise unimagined, untried, unexpected, improbable, and impossible.

Wom-po: An international listserv devoted to the discussion of Women’s Poetry. Membership is open to all individuals who are interested in discussing poetry written by women. The discussion covers women poets of all periods, aesthetics, countries, and ethnicities.

NewPoetry List: Has two purposes: information and discussion related to contemporary poetry. We welcome publication announcements, reviews, essays, open letters, quotes, news items, calls for submissions, and, of course, poems and your commentary.


These are the three I know of and it’s quite surprising how long it took me to gain awareness of their existence, and then to actually sign up for them. I haven’t determined the exact List Serv Ratio of Noise to Substance for any yet, but so far so good, in all three cases.

Are there any other poetry lists out there that no-one’s told me about?

The Special Relationship

“A phrase often used to describe the exceptionally close political, diplomatic, cultural and historical relations between the United States and the United Kingdom.”

In everything but poetry?

I’ve been comparing the frequency and level of engagement in the responses in this forum to those in this one

And at least this UK discussion board has a forum for US (& other) poetry. I’m not aware of any US discussion board which gives a specific reciprocal place to UK (& other) poetry.

The US and UK poetry seem, from here, to be two separate universes, two distinct planets, with only the occasional pond-straddling pioneer (Rob Mackenzie and just a handful of others come to mind) at the ‘working’ level, where most of us operate.  (At the mega-poet level – where there are mega-poets – all things become much more equal, don’t they?)

Is this an accurate picture? If so, is such working-level separateness good or bad for Poetry?

And that’s just the US-UK divide. There’s also the huge and important rest of the English-speaking poetry blogosphere.  Is there more or less connectedness there?

Should people who care about Poetry be trying to do anything about any of this?

Or should we just be all Candide and il faut cultiver son jardin?


or blogging? I like this excerpt attributed to Swift and quoted here:

“A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories:” and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation. There you enter not only your own original thoughts, (which, a hundred to one, are few and insignificant) but such of other men as you think fit to make your own, by entering them there. For, take this for a rule, when an author is in your books, you have the same demand upon him for his wit, as a merchant has for your money, when you are in his.”

Top 100 Creative Writing Blogs

We’re not letting general miffedness at the fact of poetry constituting the last section of the list get in the way of our offering warm congratulations to C. Dale Young, Jilly Dybka and Melissa Fondakowski for being numbers 90, 91 and 92 (which would be numbers 1, 2 & 3 in the poetry section) respectively on this list of Top 100 Creative Writing Blogs:

90. Avoiding the Muse: Doctor, blogger and author C. Dale Young maintains this blog as well as teaching an MFA program on writing.

91. Poetry Hut Blog: Keep up to date on the latest happenings in the poetry world with this blog.

92. Poet with a Day Job: Does the title of this blog remind you of yourself? Read this blogger’s posts on writing, reading and everyday life here.

93. 1,000 Black Lines: Posts on this blog are a single line long, some of which record daily events and others that read like lines of poetry.

94. The Best American Poetry: Learn about some of the best poetry out there through this blog.

95. harriet: The Poetry Foundation maintains this blog, which posts about happenings in the poetry world and speaks directly to you, the poet.

96. Poems at the Poetry Showcase: Contribute your poetry to this blog, or read the postings of others.

97. The American Academy of Poets lets you know about great poetry that’s out there through their blog.

98. Poetry and Poets in Rags: This blogger is both a salesman and a poet.

99. Silliman’s Blog: Here you’ll find informative posts on contemporary poets and their work.

100. Poets Who Blog: This blog is a great resource for poets, with writing contests, posts about work and more.

your poetry and ‘poetry’

Justin writes: “I really don’t think too many poets out there are as concerned as one might think about the ‘present condition/state’ of poetry, or even its future. I think most poets are entirely too self-centered to even begin to consider the world around them, even the world of poetry.”

My question is: Is it such an either/or proposition? Are focusing on your own work and being interested in the state of poetry mutually exclusive activities?

What I tend to find is that while I remain generally interested in ‘the state of poetry’, it’s in a very other-planetly sort of way, entirely divorced from my own work and struggles and dilemmas as a practicing poet.

Would it be more or less helpful to me as an aspiring poet to have a clearer idea about exactly where on that distant other planet called ‘poetry’ my work fits, where it originated and where it might be headed? Do others feel an organic connection between their own work and ‘poetry’?

I honestly have no idea.

blog-posted poem?

Here’s poem that just got rejected (click to enlarge). I ran it through (I owe a hat tip to a poetry blogger for the link, but can’t at this minute recall which blog I saw it on – will edit it in when it comes back to me). Does putting the wordle up here make it a blog-posted poem?

Long-time readers of this blog will remember that I was much exercised by the question of blog-posted poems and their publication chances in the past. This tag pulls up most of the posts, I think, and there’s a standing page on the topic here.

name a hundred books

Of poetry, that is. Ron Silliman:

I am not at all certain that any MFA program should admit a student who cannot name a minimum of 100 books of contemporary poetry – published in the past 25 years – and say a little about each. And I am not sure that I would graduate any student who did not then seriously read 200 more such books over the next period of time – some schools require as few as 25 – and again could say a little about each.

On the bright side, it’s just “a little” about each.

you say tomato..

Someone read a poem I wrote and interpreted it in a way that transcended my intent. It was a beautiful interpretation and hung together very nicely on its own terms and with the text. Did I misread it? Is that what you meant? the person asked.

I didn’t answer in any meaningful way, I didn’t think I should.

It occurs to me that poems and their readers are like the two players on either side of a log xylophone, each playing a different melody. If everything comes together as it should – if the players are mutually aware and mutually sensitive -, they work in counterpoint, “slipping notes in the gaps of each other’s parts” and out of that (it always seems so miraculous to me) the audience begins to hear a third melody, knocking and throbbing and hanging out there in a phantom-like but very moving way.

No-one “wrote” the third melody. It is born of the interaction between the two players.

behold, thou art fair

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.

Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.

Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.

–Song of Solomon, 4

ignosce mihi…

Almost no writing since the end of NaPO.

Back in April.


But I’ve been beating up the old stuff. Shaking it up and demanding its papers. Making it line up and do drills and justify its existence, dammit.

I’m going to have a poetry manuscript one day.