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Old 02-03-2018, 11:51 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Default "Poetry Book Contests Should be Abolished"

Poetry Book Contests Should be Abolished: Why Contests Are the Stupidest Way to Publish First Books
by Anis Shivani

I read this article a couple of years ago and just came across it again. Iím wondering what folks think about this topic. Have things changed at all since the article was written (2011)?
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Old 02-04-2018, 09:14 AM
Michael Juster Michael Juster is offline
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On the opposite side, a blinded contest is one of the few ways to do an end run around the inbred chumminess that plagues most publishers when they are not running a blinded contest.

Moreover, I am not sure that the generic quality of the winners is an indictment of the effect of the contests as much as an indictment of what gets praised in our vapid literary culture these days.

Hardly a ringing endorsement for the contests, I know...
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Old 02-04-2018, 11:39 AM
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Maryann Corbett Maryann Corbett is offline
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Here's another opinion, unfortunately more than ten years old now, from a voice I trust more than Shivani's: A.E. Stallings.

One additional point: When is one supposed to learn the rule that only first books may be published via contests? I seem to have committed some faux pas as have recent winners of the New Criterion Book Prize John Foy and Moira Egan, both of whom had books out before their contest wins.

My first book was from WordTech, not a contest, and I'll talk about that in private if you want to talk.
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Old 02-04-2018, 01:23 PM
Ned Balbo Ned Balbo is offline
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A sad truth is that, from the standpoint of most publishers, readers don't want poetry. Most don't want to read it, let alone buy it. For those of us who've devoted years or lives to the art form, it's a painful realization.

Nor do most publishers have the resources to publicize our books. Those that do direct their resources to other non-poetry projects. My hat is off to those editors of small presses who sacrifice their own writing time to support the poets they publish.

Another factor: more & more readers encounter poetry through other media, often in performance or for free, on-line. With few exceptions, it's tough for even established poets to sell many copies of their books.

For these reasons, my view is that contests help protect & sustain the art of poetry in book form--at the very least, they contribute to sustaining a vital, varied range of voices that might not otherwise receive an editorial hearing. It's just not cost-effective for most publishers to bring out a book of poetry without the "push" that a contest provides.

Last edited by Ned Balbo; 02-04-2018 at 01:26 PM.
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Old 02-04-2018, 02:07 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Well, this is interesting. As one of those myriad punters who's made finals and semifinals but never won, I find this all quite topical. To a certain extent, I do feel that contests reflect technique; a few years ago, I never made it into the running, and it's less that my poems have improved than that my MSS have. They are tighter and better-organized. Constant rejection has refined my product, but I'm very glad to have been pointed to the 'sphere (by Katie Hoerth), after some years of rejection emails, with some actual feedback beyond thank you for entering, and the sense of a community. There is I think also a big step between finalist and winner. My 2c.

Lots of stuff in the links as well; I'm happy to have discovered Simic's New British Poetry, which I look forward to reading. In Oxford a year or two ago and nobody at Blackwell's recommended it as I searched for overviews. What we don't know.

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Old 02-04-2018, 02:14 PM
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Ted Charnley Ted Charnley is offline
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Post On Contests

And here's another opinion on this topic, much older than Alicia's:

If the verses are for a literary competition, your grace should try to win second place; first is always won through favor or because of the high estate of the person, second is won because of pure justice . . . .
Cervantes, Second Part of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha.
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Old 02-05-2018, 07:55 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Location: Connecticut, USA
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Thanks, everybody, for sharing your thoughts and opinions about this topic. So far Iíve mostly entered contests for individual poems, most with no entry fee and a few with entry fees, and have won some and had honorable mentions for a few.

Regarding manuscript contests, I have never entered one until last week. I have no idea how itís going to do. I donít have tons of money to spend, so I must decide whether itís worth entering these kinds of things.

Ted - Thanks for that Cervantes quote. It gave me a chuckle.
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