I am what I am...

I can’t speak for the rest of the world - won’t try - only my world.

The 2008 winner of the Sow’s Ear Chapbook contest is Maureen Seaton. I’m proud to be the one who selected her work – to be published in 2009. It’s an amazing collection by an amazing poet. The prize includes publication, author’s copies, and $1,000.

There’s a fee for the contest. Yes. But, I receive no money, nor do the other editors with SE. Every poet who submits a ms. to the contest, receives a year’s subscription to the magazine from the press and a copy of the winning chapbook.

Was there a high level of competition this year? Most certainly. Should some of the poets not have entered? That’s possibly true. But, I will tell you this, every writer who entered this year's contest will receive for the money they spent ... poetry: three issues of the magazine, Sow's Ear Poetry Review - a quarterly that for the last 20 years has published many, many poets ... the famous and the not so famous … and the winning chapbook. The contest helps provide stability and existence to a magazine that continues to be a strong venue for writers.

There are many book and chapbook presses that are independent, passionate, and fair - presses that offer similar services and opportunities without taking advantage of writers. I also realize that there are presses, editors, and writers who will and do take advantage... I can only tell you that I’m not one of them - nor is Sow’s Ear Press.

I realize that mine is not the majority view here, but I needed to say it.

I also edit Blue Fifth Review - no fees, no contests.


Anonymous said...

You know that without Sow's ear I would not have my chapbook! This is why I believe in contests, and why I continue to host the list. Where my mixed feelings come from are those presses that don't have clue one how to run a press: big dreams and no capacity - this hurts the poet.

My experience with Sow's Ear was nothing short of fantastic. Not only did I have my book published, but I stayed in touch and wrote for the journal in proceeding months, too. It was a great experience, and I came to know you!

DeadMule said...

You Know Sam,

I have such mixed feelings about the whole situation. From a poet's point of view, what I want is publication. Not free books (somebody else's)or any other kind of booby prize. You either win or lose.

I know a press needs money to operate. Every business does. But why ask poets who haven't yet published a book to finance your business? It seems like the money could have published a second book, instead of giving subscriptions.

Now, unlike Bill Knott, I don't see a problem with the judges. A judge picks the best from a manuscripts handed to him/her. I don't see how that's unethical at all.

But everyone says to network, which I try to do. How does that help when entries are read blind? I'd like somebody to say, "I know Helen's work and want to publish her book" because what I really want is my manuscript published as my first book.

Helen Losse

Collin said...

I've heard only goods things about Sow's Ear and, yes, there are small presses who run reputable contests. Marueen Seaton is a brilliant poet, so I'm thrilled for her.

My concern with contests is that there is a mindset that the only way to publication is buy winning a contest. People are spending hundreds or thousands of dollars when they could be channelling that money into finding a good editor and self-pubbing or finding a home at a small or micro-press.

Like Reb Livingston, I believe if you want to enter a contest, by all means. I just want there to be more discussion about the alternatives.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks for your words, Melissa. I appreciate them - and a special thanks to you for your comments about Larry at your blog.

And Collin, I do understand your point. Most who submit to contests - I'll take a step more - most who submit to presses and even journals - period - should not be submitting their work. They should spend their time establishing craft, finding voice... Submitting to contests, presses, or magazines will not make them better writers.

I do agree that the mindset of poets who "contest" and even poets who "submit" at all is wrong. You shouldn't write just to be published or heard. That's not strong enough.

And a big yes that more discussion is needed - among writers, among presses, and presses & writers.

Helen - Barbara Jane Reyes - I think one of the best of today's poets - in her reaction to Brown's situation with a contest, makes valid points. Very valid. She also mentions Steel Toe Books and the open reading period for collection submission and no fee. STB is a great press, publishing great works by writers such as Jeanine Hall Gailey & Ken Waldman, just to name two. During that open period they have no fee, but...
"There is no reading fee for authors who submit during our open reading periods, but we ask everyone who submits to purchase one of our existing titles directly from us."

And, I think that's great, and have no problem with that. If a poet is not willing to purchase works from that press, why should they even consider a submission if they don't, in some way, support that particular press. To me, that's what Sow's Ear does. If we weren't able to help fund the magazine through fees, we probably wouldn't be able to run the magazine, certainly not the way it's run, and not at its present level. If there were no magazine, that would be one less important venue for writers who want to submit individual poems for magazine publication - which should be the foundation of submitting a collection - chap or book.

Maybe it's a Catch-22. But, I do not it's a real problem.

As for me, I'm not much of a network person. I'm anti-social, a bit of lone puppy. I would probably have an easier go of it if I weren't that way.

Barbara Jane Reyes said...

Sam, thanks for the mention. I do want to say though, that the very fact that you are editing BFR is "networking."

Elsewhere in blogworld (Collin's comments stream maybe) someone mentions hearing Diane diPrima speaking on the alleged movement that was the Beats. di Prima says that there was not "movement," but a bunch of folks getting together, reading and publishing each others' works.

I also wholeheartedly believe that those who comprise your "community" are your principal readers and givers of feedback of your work in its nascent and draft stages. And they are also the people who buy your work, read and teach your work, and promote your work to others.

By our affiliation via BFR (and certainly you were networking when you blind e-mailed me to submit work to you), and all that's followed, I consider you part of my various poetry communities.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Interesting thoughts on community, Barbara. Thanks for your comment here.

Collin said...

Barbara Jane and Jeannine Hall Gailey are both spot on about finding communities and building communities. I also consider you, Sam, and BFR as part of my community and I think that the blogosphere has created a poetry community that is mostly like-minded and supportive.