December 3, 2005
Poetry Competitions and Scams
Unfortunately, there are a large number of publishers, websites, and competitions for poetry out there that are scams.
They accept & "publish" poems without any thought about merit. They accept everything. They make money on accepted poets buying copies of the book their poem is in, and in some cases they run workshops and competition readings that you pay quite a bit of money to attend. Of course, they play off our vanity and desire to be published and known to others. Moreover, no one forces you to send in a poem or pay the fee. (Likewise, you CAN just throw away the Publisher's Clearing House winning entry you get every other week - but many do not) However, you need to be aware of this industry.
I especially would warn new poets and young poets AND those who teach them. When I was teaching in a secondary school, I knew of a fellow English teacher who had her students enter the poetry contest at poetry.com as an assignment. When I told her that it was a vanity press scam she got very angry with me. She felt that ANY recognition the kids could get for their writing was good. I disagree strongly.
Basic rule to follow - though many very legitimate competitions charge a "reading fee" to enter a poem, no legitimate contest that I know of will charge you to receive the award, get it published, or get at least one author copy of your published piece.
There's a guy named Charlie Hughes who has a good page on all this literary scamming at http://windpub.com/literary.scams/ . There's a list here of scam offers - some of these publishers go under 20 different names. Check before you enter.
He really hits the nail hard several times on the head for poetry.com (I give them a point for being smart enough to buy a great URL first) by showing just how how dreadful a poem can make it to the semi-finals in their competitions. They are AKA "The International Society of Poets" -you have probably seen their ads. (I've had two good-hearted relatives give me their information and say, "Enter this - maybe you can actually make some money at this poetry thing you like to do.") Hughes' says that they are bad poetry sites, not necessarily bad poems, and he's correct. There are some good poems there sent in by the unknowing.
Like him and others, I sent in a poem a few years back that I wrote on the spot just to see what how they would respond. (Others have sent in telephone listings, cereal box text, newspaper articles - some formatted "poetically,” some just cut and pasted - doesn't matter, all accepted) Fastest reply I ever got from a publisher (OK, give them another point) Not only did I make it into their newest "Anthology" but I later received a nomination for "Poet of the Year 2000" and an invitation to attend their "Tenth Anniversary International Society of Poets Convention and Symposium" to receive my accolades and read my poem (this was the actual competition for poet of the year - Grand Prize being $5,000 and a book contract) in Washington, DC. I didn't go. But, I bet some people did - at $595 a pop.
Want more info? Someone created a whole website on this particular publisher at http://poetrynotcom.tripod.com/
Enough free (bad) advertising for them...