Thursday, June 09, 2005

File under "Another Anonymous Website Busted," or on poetry contests

Some readers may be familiar with the recent outing of the author of the Phantom Professor blog. You can read a story about it here. While this example I am highlighting is different than the Phantom Professor, it is interesting to see this outing of anonymous internet writers happening a bit more as of late. Maybe a message to those who think they can remain anonymous that sooner or later they may have to stand up to what they wrote? Or that they need to be more careful? I know if make anything anonymous, I am working on covering my tracks better.

Anyways, The Chronicle of Higher Education for June 3, 2005 features an article by Thomas Bartlett about librarian Alan Cordle. The article, "Rhyme and Unreason," discusses Mr. Cordle's website, a website that claims to be a watchdog for poetry contests. Now I am sure as librarians we are likely pretty sceptical about these contests. I know I am, and I know that during my time as an educator, had a student come to me asking, I would have likely steered them away. I personally don't like the idea of having to pay to have someone read your work or have it published. The publishers claims of economic necessity notwithstanding, it seems like vanity publishing to me. At any rate, Mr. Cordle, of Portland Community College, exposes on his website, according to the article, "corruption in poetry contests, many of which are run by university presses" (A12). Those in the poetry "industry" of course hate him, but it seems he used his skills a librarian to make "use of open-records laws to force presses at public universities to hand over documents related to their contests." He would then track down leads and reach conclusions. One of the conclusions is apparent cronyism in the contests. The article makes for an interesting read. This issue of the Chronicle also features a response article to Foetry written by John T. Casteen and Tel Genoways. Their article, "Contesting Poetry Contests" is featured in the Review section of the Chronicle. They decry the Foetry website as "reprehensible." They explain how the presses reached the point of having to charge for contests in order to get revenue. However, the article seems to focus then on advocating certain reforms. The one reform I like is the elimination of the reader fees. However, as a pragmatic person, this seems more like idealistic wishful thinking. I get the impression that even if Foetry was a bit harsh, that the presses got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. That is my humble opinion given that the authors seem to be calling for reforms that the website author has been calling for before. However, I recommend for readers to read both pieces, visit the website like I did, and then decide for themselves. Obviously, Foetry has caused quite a bit of commotion. On their website, there is an update note of at least one contest that changed their guidelines for judges as a result. The website does seem to note when wrongs have been righted, so to speak. However, as I said, take a look at the various articles and decide.

Update note (6/28/2005): Adding to the Foetry controversy, Gale's Literature Community News for June 2005 features an article on Foetry and the controversy, which has a nice summary of who did what and so on.

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