Sunday, August 20, 2006

Poetic Peccadilloes -- I am not amused

Generally speaking I refrain from using my blog to fulminate about things that raise my ire because there is nothing duller than watching somebody froth at the mouth like a lunatic. But, it is a blog, so fulmination is de rigeur.

This evening's fulminary topic is integrity, or more precisely, the lack of it among poets. I have been a freelance editor and writer for better than fifteen years. I have edited fiction and non-fiction for small presses and alternative presses. I have been a technical writer and grantwriter. In short, I am accustomed to working to professional standards. Granted, not every organization has the budget for fancy software and slick productions, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about intellectuel honesty.

Honesty costs zero dollars and zero time. It's the easiest policy that requires the least amount of work. All you have to do is to act like an adult. Tanka poets, I'm sad to say, are deficit in this quality. While most poets are honest, time after time I discover that many are not. Here are my rules. More than one person has violated each of them.

1) Read the guidelines. Believe the guidelines. Follow the guidelines. Do not insult me by informing me that your poetry is so extraodinary that I should abandon my carefully planned and financed project in order to cater to your immature ego.

2) My guidelines mean what they say. I am tolerant of errors and friendly to newbies. That doesn't mean I'm a pushover and that you can trammel my guidelines at will.

3) When I say, 'no simultaneous submissions,' I mean 'no simultaneous submissions.' That is not an invitation to sneak things past me. You think I won't catch you? You're wrong. I have caught four poets doing this on Fire Pearls alone. I have not mentioned to them that I have caught them, but they won't be invited to my next project.

4) When I say reprints are welcome as long as previous publication is acknowledged, I mean 'previous publication.' Not just the first, or the most recent, or the one most flattering to you. I mean, I want to know about the places where the public has been able to read your poem. Your blog, a journal, a book, a website, anywhere.

5) This includes works that are pending but not yet in print. Guess what? I am also a reviewer, plus I am on cordial terms with other editors. We talk to each other. We show each other galleyproofs and ask for opinions. We write blurbs for each other. We ask one another for professional opinions. In short, your book may not be in print yet -- but that doesn't mean I don't know about it.

5 b) I am in the process of tracking down every single book, chapbook, broadside, calendar, journal, CD, poster, and anything else containing English-language tanka. No, I don't have everything yet, so you might put one over on me temporarily, but pretty soon I will and I will notice. I'm an easy-going person, but I take a dim view of people deliberately trying to deceive, or who are so lazy that they don't care about their own integrity. We won't be working together again.

6) Don't tell me 'it doesn't matter' and that I'm uptight. I'm the editor and I'm a damn good one. If you want a sloppy, deceptive book, go publish it yourself.


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