Urthkin 1 – Part 1
“I’ve always thought that the purpose of a mag or ezine is to be a vehicle for the writing, not the other way around. Here I’m also writing from the perspective of poet myself, so I know the frustrations of submitting work to mags only to have them sit on a poem for months, if not years sometimes. I used to follow the rules when it came to submitting work, but now I confess that I have sent out poems that I think are really good to any number of mags and not advised the editors that they are simultaneous subs. I want my work to be seen by as big an audience as possible. I know that this isn’t such a good plan, but I’ve grown tired of playing the game and being taken advantage of by this ‘first time published’ rule. In fact, it was this limitation that was partly an inspiration to start the Lummox Journal in the first place.” RD Armstrong, Editor, Lummox.
“Poems deserve to be seen, heard, and read by a wide audience. If this means a poem is printed at the same time in two or more magazines or online zines, then that is legitimate as far as I’m concerned.” Irene Koronas, Editor, Wilderness House Literary Review.
“My opinion with regards to reprints is probably not typical because I run a print magazine in South America, and my readers are mainly South American. For this reason, I can and do use reprinted material (even material that has appeared online) since my readers are unlikely to have read the pieces previously. And this is important, since, in the end, editors are mainly interested in keeping our readers happy. If we give them bad stories, they won’t be happy, and if we give them stories that they’ve read before (and make them pay for the privilege), they won’t be happy. The trick, in my opinion, is to try to sell it to an editor who has a different market from that in which the story has previously been seen. If this is the case, and you are honest about the publication history, many editors will give a good piece a home. Despite popular misconceptions, truly good stories are not all that easy to find—especially for the small press.” Gustavo Bondoni, Editor, Buenos Aires Literary Review.
“I don’t believe that a single reader has ever been harmed by reading a good poem twice. Furthermore, I believe that publication by small journals has all too often been the ‘kiss of death’ for poems. A poet puts all his inspiration, skill, and craft into a poem. The poem is read by a handful of readers and then is consigned to the literary graveyard called ‘Previously Published.’” Michael R. Burch, Editor, Hypertexts.
“As for the legality of publishing poems that have already been published and for which other publishers have taken first rights, and that have been returned to the poet (which is almost unanimously the case), the attorneys I’ve consulted about this, two of whom were literary attorneys, agree that there is no copyright problem.” Ellaraine Lockie, Poet.
“I’ve been duped multiple times by some of the biggest names in the small press who ignore the fact that we are not interested in previously published material. Since they MUST sign a Publishing Agreement to have their work featured in Main Street Rag, they have shifted the burden of responsibility for copyright infringement back to themselves, meaning if someone sues MSR, all we have to do is show the signed agreement and they must then go after the author because the author lied on a legal document. I am a legally registered business. I pay payroll, state taxes, federal taxes—and all the other crap that comes along with being a legal business. Many small press people do not register as a business, don’t collect and pay sales taxes or income taxes. It is among these folks that you will find the most prevalent attitude of sure, we don’t care if it’s been published before. And why would you expect anything else: they’re flying beneath the legal radar for everything else, why expect them to abide by copyright laws? Is that good for the author? I don’t think so. It means their work may not be protected by copyright laws.” M. Scott Douglass, Editor and Publisher, Main Street Rag.
“The rule for poeticdiversity is that, as long as you include the name and date of WHERE and WHEN the work previously appeared, we will more than likely republish it—at least 80% of the time. Unfortunately, the rule for ‘exclusivity’ creates a dishonest chord between the poet/writer who isn’t willing to commit 100% to their work by omitting this relevant information to the editor of the publication in question. As a poet and writer who submits her work to a variety of journals, I understand the frustration of running up against the ‘status quo’ rule of ‘no previously published work,’ and I choose to take my chances with more sympathetic journals. On the flip side, while I do believe that a poem/story/article should be read by a wide audience, disseminating it to as many journals as possible in a short space of time undervalues the work. It’s like hearing the same batch of poems from a poet at an open mic six weeks in a row. I’ll stop listening after the second time.” Marie Lecrivain, Executive Editor, poeticdiversity.
“We have no restrictions. We believe the property belongs to the writer. If a work has been previously published we only require permission from the publisher and writer, and take care to mention its previous publications in our journals and chapbooks.” Diana E. Saenz / Marshal L. Harvey, Co-Editors, Boston Poet Journal.
I subscribe to over twenty-five small press literary magazines, but given the pace of my life I can’t read them all—I don’t even come close. Most I scan, and a few I will read from cover to cover. But I think we all realize at some point that there are more things to read than hours in the day to read them. This is why I believe that great work should be allowed to be submitted again. With thousands of outlets for writing, the chances of reading the same published work of one writer twice in separate publications are slim to zero. Even if this should happen, why make the exception the rule?
As for the imperative that writers who can’t continually generate new and exciting work are failures, well I think that logic is flat-footed. Over a nine-year period, I produced about 300 poems. Right now I am not writing much poetry and have begun to focus on other writing forms. So when all of my poems have been published, do I cease to submit them? Maybe there is a middle ground; perhaps an editor can accept already published work if it has not been published anywhere within the last year?
Regardless of how we feel about submission guidelines, we must honor them and those who publish us. If editors insist on a once-and-done code of acceptance, then I would ask that they explain the philosophy along with their submission rules. Such explanations would allow the writer to become a participant in the ethos of the publication. Phil Wagner’s simple statement that, “There’s also too much good material out there for a duplicate printing to take the space of someone else’s possible lone chance” resonated with me not because of its logic, but because of its goodness.
I have sympathy for the publisher who has no university backing and/or must live on subscriptions. I can understand why they might begin to feel the pressure to publish only the “first,” the “original,” the “breakout piece of prose” when sales matter.
Web Sites of Magazines Noted in This Article:
• Buenos Aires Literary Review: www.baliterary.com.ar • The HyperTexst: www.thehypertexts.com • Main Street Rag: www.MainStreetRag.com • Lummox Journal: www.lummoxpress.com • Remark: www.remarkpoetry.net • Softblow: www.softblow.com • Bathtub Gin: www.pathwisepress.com • Ghoti Fish: www.ghotimag.com • Poesy: www.poesy.org • Rain Taxi: www.raintaxi.com • Wilderness House Literary Review: www.whlreview.com • Poetic Diversity: www.poeticdiversity.org • Boston Poets: www.geocities.com/bostonpoet2000 • Pemmican Press: www.pemmicanpress.com
Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over two hundred print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory and five books of poetry — the most recent entitled, The Last Time which was released by The Moon Press in Tucson, Arizona. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot (www.wordriot.org), Pass Port Journal (www.passportjournal.org) and ESC! (www.escmagazine.com). He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore (www.woodlandpattern.org). He is a member of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission and a founding member of the Lake Shore Surf Club, the oldest fresh water surfing club on the Great Lakes (http://www.visitsheboygan.com/dairyland/). You may find additional samples of his work by going to: