YOU CAN MIX & LICK ‘EM ALL, BUT ONLY TWO’LL BE SWEET
You will not have roses thrown at your feet. You will not make money. You will not become the celebrated guest poet at universities & bookstores coast-to-coast. You will not be invited to read your poetry all over the world. You will not have multiple book release parties. You will not be discovered and heralded as the next John Ashbery or Billy Collins or Elizabeth Bishop or Sylvia Plath or Ubermensch or Charles Bernstein or Susan Howe or Maya Angelou or John Cage or Lyn Hejinian or Rae Armantrout or Alice Notley. You simply will not.
If you still want to write poetry despite those warnings, spend as little as possible on getting it out there. I’ve wasted enough cash on contests “placing” but never “winning” — I finally wised up and recognized the role these dice throwing games play: NONE. Well, the contest-makers make money off of people’s hopes that they’ll hit hardways on the “come out” roll (some do noble things like run their presses with the proceeds; which presses would you like to make a donation to?). But ironically, that’s the ultimate beauty of Poetry — it’s the enemy of money.
Or more specifically, it’s the one art that no one truly banks on to hit the big time; you go at it for the love of other possibilities & outcomes. Painters may somewhat-feasibly hope the canvas will raise a dime; songsters can push for the my-demo-made-the-charts payload; & even videographers can hold out for minor-Tarantino status. But poets? Living poets, even those with lots of books, rarely–and only later in life–hit the payload. Your chances of riding the wave of poetry-paychecks-for-sustainable-living are akin to those of becoming a lotto millionaire, for real. And most lotto winners end up broke again, ever-more unhappy.
Within this privileged position of no-chance-for-payouts, poetry can do things like critique and raze the powers-that-be and stall the myriad ways they make us less human, turn us into automatons, and condition us against our soul-plucking consciousness. Poetry can strike weird & sometimes stupidly killer chords, turn an unheard phrase, raise an image and pique our slumbering wanderlusts in such a way that the cogs and wheels of the capitalist disease we sleep and breathe are slowed, even just a little, for just a minute or a second or an inkling of a breath. Who wants to breathe freely for the length of a song? The truth I know, over and over, is: Poetry is the stuff that makes light unfold.
Poetry doesn’t work in visible & immediate ways; rather, it takes its time and winds through those money-grinding machinations, hinting at what else may be, stirring dissension in ways we’ve labeled Surrealist, Situationist, Postmodern, Avant-garde, Artaudian, Battaileian, Lynchian, Subversive, Dada, Fluxus, Anti-Art, etc etc. Its power relies on its near-immunity from the motivations money inspires. So why feed the beast in its name by sending money to contests? Avoid it, if possible. Go small press. Go online. Don’t be prideful. Do your own promotion, get your friends and fellow poets involved in production and distribution. Check out the methods of DIYers. Kick some ass.
I know I’m simplifying and romanticizing the role of poetry here, but only in an effort to get those writers who don’t have expendable income (are there any that do?) to avoid prostituting your poetry in vain efforts. I mean, if there is a contest with a press that you are in love with or they’ve employed a “judge” whose work you call your heritage, then sure, pop that twenty dollar check in the mail. Hopefully, it will get through the interns’ and students’ first reading, then the professional staffs’ weeding, and make it into that judge’s lap. Fingers crossed!
But if you don’t have a free-flowing bankroll and you’ve got a killer manuscript-seeking-book form, check out these sites, stolen and credited, I gleaned from ye olde internet:
From Steven D. Schroeder –
OPEN READING PERIODS
List of presses with reading periods for poetry manuscripts, plus notes:
Open: BlazeVOX Books
Open: Persea Books
Open: Red Morning Press
Open: Eastern Washington University Press (query/sample)
Open: Counterpath Press (query/sample)
Open: Coffee House Press (sample, not first books)
Open: Mayapple Press ($10 fee)
Open: Etruscan Press ($20 fee)
January & June: Milkweed Editions
January-June: BkMk Press (sample)
January-July: Ghost Road Press (query/sample)
January-November: Graywolf Press (query/sample)
January-March: CavanKerry Press
January-? (not first books): BOA Editions
March 1-May 1: Ahsahta Press
Feb. 1 – June 1: Carolina Wren Press
April-September: Waywiser Press
May & June: Black Ocean
June: Four Way Books
June: Ausable Press (not reading 2008)
June: Steel Toe Books (you have to buy one of their previous books)
September: Sarabande Books (sample) (not reading 2008)
September-October: University of Pittsburgh Press (not first books)
October: Carnegie Mellon University Press ($10 fee)
October-November: C&R Press ($10 fee, $15 to received published book)
November-December: the various WordTech Communications imprints (not reading 2008)
POETRY PUBLISHERS: NON-CONTEST [from Rachel Dacus' site]
Hoping to reverse the trend of poets paying to have their books published – one poet I know reports having shelled out more than $1,000 in contest fees – I’m posting this list of small presses that publish poetry books outside of contests. Some of these presses also run book contests, but all consider books of poetry outside of contest parameters. If a small reading fee is charged, I’ve noted it. Feel free to email me presses to add.
Please support these presses by buying their poetry books.It’s the only alternative to paying contest fees. Each of their poetry books usually costs less and offers a better readthan a form rejection letter!
Ahsahta Press http://ahsahtapress.boisestate.edu/
Alsop Review Press http://www.alsopreview.com/press.htm
Apogee Press http://www.apogeepress.com/
Carnegie Mellon University Presshttp://www.cmu.edu/universitypress (charges $15 reading fee)
City Lights Bookshttp://www.citylights.com/CLpubmanu.html
Coffee House Presshttp://www.coffeehousepress.org/resources.asp
Eastern Washington University Presshttp://www.ewu.edu/dcesso/press/guideline.htm
High Plains Presshttp://www.highplainspress.com/guidelines.html
Litmus Press (July 1 – Sept. 1) http://www.litmuspress.org/sub_litmus.htm
Mayapple Presshttp://www.mayapplepress.com/ Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org ($10 reading fee for full-length book; no fee for chaplet book consideration)
O Bookshttp://www.obooks.com/(closed for submissions until 2005)
Pecan Grove Presshttp://library.stmarytx.edu/pgpress/submissions/index.html
Sarabande Bookshttp://www.sarabandebooks.org/contest/contest.html(September only)
Sixteen Rivers Presshttp://www.sixteenrivers.com(San Francisco Bay Area collective press)
Soft Skull Presshttp://www.softskull.com/submission_guidelines.php
University of California http://www.ucpress.edu/books/NCP.ser.html
University of Illinois Presshttp://www.press.uillinois.edu/poetry/submit.html
Wesleyan University Presshttp://www.wesleyan.edu/wespress/forAuthors.htm
Quickly & in brief, a few other worthwhile publishers (not exhaustive!):
But hey, don’t take my word for it: