Some time ago I had an interesting conversation with a poetry editor regarding poems posted online. At that time, editors generally agreed that poems posted on personal blogs were “published,” but often made concessions to publish if you stripped them from the site. Now, many editors have shifted their position, saying they won’t accept previously published work, “to include work published online.” This is proper, I think, and because I still actively pursue journal publications, I’ve decided to stop publishing work here.
As an aside, an interesting problem arises from stripping a poem from a site: its internet trail remains, sometimes indefinitely. Well over a year ago, I stripped a poem, and months later it continued to show in Google searches. The link was dead, but its ghost lingered. Now, the specific site link doesn’t show, but because I offered it on my Twitter feed (along with the poem’s title), the fact that I once shared it remains, perhaps forever.
Any editor who’s interested can perform a cursory Google search and see that trace, which isn’t bad policy. After all, the number of online journals is staggering, and therefore so is competition. You can argue that editors can’t be too picky, but any quality journal deserves first publishing rights. A poem that’s been posted has, by definition, already used up that right.
Another issue, of course, is plagiarism. Let’s call it what it is: kidnapping. Not just a few poets I know have had this happen to them, word-for-word heists without request or attribution. I don’t consider my poetry to be a national treasure per se, or that T.S. Eliot ought to be awfully nervous about my arrival, but that’s a ballsy maneuver, and will probably only get worse. There is software available to “watch” other sites for your words, but I’m not interested in digging too many moats.
I know this argument arises from time to time, and that some take opposite positions on the subject. One poet I know firmly believes his site is the place for his poetry. That’s perfectly acceptable, and I applaud him for making the conscious decision to go in that direction. For now, I am focused on journal (online and print) publication, and to keep my opportunities as wide as possible, my decision is to stop publishing poetry on this site.
By the way, in the past four months I received two acceptance emails and five rejections. The odds are deliciously maddening, but that’s the way it goes. I hope the small group of people who read this blog continue to do so. I’ll continue to write about poetry (and “things”), and share other poets’ previously published work. There’s much to be said, and this is the tiny place I get to say it.
p.s. Read this incredible article from the anonymous editor of the just-now defunct > Kill Author online publication. Whoever this is, she/he showed tremendous amounts of grace, and remained famously anonymous to the end, as she/he departed the publishing sphere.