Archive for May 15th, 2021

Is poetry becoming a “pay to play” game?

Saturday, May 15th, 2021
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Critics call her work “remarkable, beautiful.”

I don’t keep up with po biz much, but the mechanics and finances of getting poems published today is no small matter to writers everywhere, and increasingly it’s a “pay to play” game. That’s according to Ren Powell over at the website Review Tales. She’s a published poet – in Norway. The native Californian has six full-length collections of poetry and more than two dozen books of translation. She lives on the Scandinavian coast.

In a world where stand-up comics pay for stage time and artists pay for exhibition space, perhaps it was inevitable that “reading fees” and “submission fees” would become commonplace. The fees are small, she admits: “I know it isn’t much, but I keep thinking of a gambler who throws down a chip or two at a time… for hours. For years.”

She writes:

“We support visual artists and musicians when they scoff at being asked to work free ‘for the exposure.’ But writers are actually paying for exposure. Worse actually: paying for a lottery ticket for possible exposure. 

“I’ll be the first to admit that I will do a lot for a pat on the back, for someone to sincerely tell me that they liked my poem or my book. But how much am I willing to invest financially for this? Crawling my way through the ranks with submission fees to reach the New Yorker could have a very high price tag.

“I understand supply and demand. I understand how hard it is for literary journals and publishers to make ends meet. I do. I’m just not convinced that getting their financing from hopeful writers isn’t exploitative. 

“Please know that I am not offering a solution. I don’t have an alternative model up my sleeve. And to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if, a week or so from now, I were to give in and pay a submission fee. But I hope not.”

During COVID she was drawn to bookbinding, papier mâché, and painting. “The limited series is expensive to make – and expensive to buy, so I also made print-on-demand facsimiles. Thus, crossing over into “self-published” territory entirely. And I don’t know how I feel about that.”

Read the whole thing here.