BP: Deja Vu (Published!?!)

My latest Bad Poem got published at Every Day Poets a couple weeks ago. It’s called Deja Vu, and while I liked it at the time, I’ve now recognized it as the piece of crap it is. Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone would have agreed to publish it.

It makes me wonder two things: first, what do you do when something you hate is ‘out there’? and second, how reputable is that publication?

I wrote the poem after reading some disutopian novel or other (probably ANTHEM or WE, but I can’t remember which), incorporating the image of mannequins burning in the street, which was dancing around my head for quite a while. But reading it over again, it’s a complete jumble. The ideas I was trying to express (the effects of anarchy on commercialism and journalism) are barely touched upon and don’t come through the poem at all. It’s a mess.

But now that it’s been published, I guess I can only grin, bare it, and NOT promote it. I mean, it’s got 2.2/5 stars from the 15 people who voted…it barely ever gets that low on the site.

I also now question the legitimacy of Every Day Poets. It was founded by the same people who do Every Day Fiction (a publication I enjoy), but with different editors.

I have a problem with the editors. Only one of the three has any kind of credible credentials so I can only assume they have no idea what they’re doing.

This isn’t springing up out of nowhere, either. I’ve been disappointed with their selections for months now. Sure there’s a gem every once and a while (like this haiku), but more often it’s one contrived disappointment after another (like this piece of trash and this catastrophe by someone who actually goes by “A Quantum Mechanic,” – someone else who gets published there frequently goes by “Wordsculptor” – seriously). The site is a joke. Is this the best they can do?

My point: Just because you’ve written a poem doesn’t mean it deserves to be published.

As far as my own writing is concerned, I’m going to edit edit edit before I send anything out and I will never submit to Every Day Poets again. I’ve already unsubscribed.

Or maybe I should send them every piece of crap I write, just to see if they’ll take it.

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3 thoughts on “BP: Deja Vu (Published!?!)

  1. It is an interestingly dissonant reaction to lambast a publication and its editors right after they have published you. Seems about as logical as receiving a degree and immediately informing prospective employers what a crappy college it is—“They’ll give a degree to anyone!” Or offering your wares at a consignment shop and then advertising that the shop only sells junk at exorbitant prices. In other words, not a terribly self-regarding or propitious instinct.

    I am one of the slush readers for EDP, although I was on hiatus when your poem came in and did not read it until it was published. However, in defense of my co-editors (and myself, since your “problem with the editors” extends over several months of selections), I will offer a response to your question (“Is this the best they can do?”). Actually, since you are an editor yourself, I have no idea why the answer did not occur to you—as it surely would have, had you given it some thought. Did you not, as an editor, consider that a publication which comes out on a preset schedule (and, in the case of EDP, on a daily basis) must choose from the submissions sent to it, selecting the best material from the choices at hand? To be more specific: Did you not stop and consider that, among the selections available for the month of June, yours may have been the thirtieth-best? And that all the poems that were rejected were less suitable than yours?

    Your poem was not terribly well-received. Your immediate reaction here was to abase it, to distance yourself from it as if it were not a piece you had put something of yourself into but was more akin to a wart that had been removed from your skin. Good and fine, if self-abasement is how you deal with criticism. To turn it outward onto others, to parse the fault out to them, seems rather unjust and mean. There were, in fact, a couple readers who posted that they liked the poem. Your acerbic review here also attacks their opinion—based on liking something you wrote! You could, I suppose, make a shtick of it: write poems, stories, paint paintings, whatever—show them to people, and if they express some appreciation, jump on them: “Gotcha! It’s really a piece of crap!”

    It is certainly not unusual for artists to be dissatisfied with their earlier work—even, sometimes, to swear it off and “distance” themselves from it. Rarely do they go back and denounce the people who liked it (unless there’s some religious conversion involved).

    In fact, the way you have worded your argument also levels the criticism at yourself. Right up front you say, “I liked it at the time.” Then you proceed to question the reputability of the editors on the basis of their having liked it. Are you suggesting, then, Mr. Case, that until June 25 (if this was the day you “recognized it as the piece of crap it is”), you were disreputable, illegitimate, and your opinions not to be trusted?

    And please, don’t send us “every piece of crap [you] write.” Only send us pieces you like, even if it is only at the time, though you may later hate it and lament the day it ever slithered from your pen.

  2. “Slithered from [my] pen” is a loathesome metaphor. For the record, sir, my words are not sly enough to slither.

    You do, however, make some valid points. The original post itself was brash and hastily-written — as, I suspect, most blog posts are, the medium being overly self-indulgent by nature — and the disgust I felt towards myself for submitting the poem in the first place was misdirected. I should not have insulted those who liked the poem (either the editors or the readers) as the appreciation of literature is always, and must be, subjective. For that I apologize.

    In general, I have little patience for my writing, especially after realizing a particular piece is crap. I blame this, justly or not, on the exuberance of youth.

    But I will not apologize for my larger disappointment with Every Day Poets. With a few key exceptions, I find the poems at EDP safe (at best) and boring and borderline cliche (at worst). They are poems I would expect to find in a workshop — as evidenced by some commenters describing what worked or didn’t work in their posts. This behavior is reminiscent of a writers’ community, not a respected publication.

    I believe that is a valid critique.

    Yes, as an editor myself, I understand the difficulties of putting together any kind of publication, and though I’ve never worked for a daily publication, I can imagine the strains it puts on its editors. But as editors, we must realize our names become attached to the pieces we publish. Publishing is a stamp of approval that mustn’t be granted to everyone who’s written a poem. It is an honor, not a right.

    The Emerson Review, of which I am poetry editor, publishes 160 pages of poetry and prose annually and I will stand behind every piece in the book because I believe in them. We do not publish pieces our staff cannot stand behind. We would rather publish a slimmer volume or forego publishing.

    And that is my problem with EDP. I do not believe the editors stand behind every poem they publish, but instead are desperate to fill the gaps in their publishing schedule. I understand there are difficulties in finding 365 quality poems yearly, but surely there’s more you could do to increase the literary merit of your publication. Solicitation, for example, could be one viable option.

    But that isn’t my place to say.

  3. Rejoinder to Doug Paul Case

    “ ‘Slithered from [my] pen’ is a loathsome metaphor.” Yes, those were the last words I wrote at the end of a long night—which serves to illustrate your point that blog posts (and replies to blog posts) are often hastily written, and are usually not given the long reflection accorded to a published text. A blog is not held to that standard—it’s more of a “public journal,” isn’t it?

    “I should not have insulted those who liked the poem (either the editors or the readers) as the appreciation of literature is always, and must be, subjective. For that I apologize.”

    I accept and do appreciate this apology.

    “But I will not apologize for my larger disappointment with Every Day Poets. With a few key exceptions, I find the poems at EDP safe (at best) and boring and borderline cliche (at worst). They are poems I would expect to find in a workshop [ . . . ] I believe that is a valid critique.”

    Now to address your critique. While I know we will differ on key points, I do feel that I am now responding to a “valid critique” (though I do not fully agree with it). Your rejoinder was more considered and rational (not “brash” and “misdirected” as I believe the original post to have been); consequently, I believe the charges you pose (especially in the final four paragraphs) all-the-more merit a reasoned response.

    Yes, EDP does have different standards than The Emerson Review, for reasons you acknowledged and for other reasons. Obviously, we can only consider poems that are submitted to us, and an online magazine with “Every Day” in its title has to deliver a poem… you get the idea. You say you “would rather publish a slimmer volume or forego publishing.” A noble sentiment, but we do not have that option: our readers would not appreciate an empty email arriving in their Inbox. You suggest solicitation, and I assure you that we have solicited a few poets (some of whose poems, I’ll bet, you would include among your “few key exceptions”). We will likely extend personal invitations to more in the future, and as word of the new publication spreads, more talent may be attracted. Keep in mind, Mr. Case (or may I call you Doug?), that most journals at our age had yet to publish a single issue. In that same time we’ve already put out, what, roughly 270 poems?

    Attracting more talent, growing the readership, improving quality—those are most definitely our hopes and goals—although sideswipes like your original posting (from a poet we’ve published no less!) implying that readers should unsubscribe and poets not submit certainly does not help in that cause.

    It must also be said that the audience for EDP is not the same as the audience for The Emerson Review. There can be some overlap, surely, but part of EDP’s mission statement is to reach a broader, more general audience. This means we have in our readership serious literati as well as people who would never pick up an issue of Poetry magazine. We also have to keep it somewhat “family-friendly,” (although we have certainly been known to bend this rule for poems we could not pass up).

    As for your contention “Publishing is a stamp of approval that mustn’t be granted to everyone who’s written a poem. It is an honor, not a right”: You could say that we publish everything that comes our way, but you would be wrong, sir; you would be wrong. You have not seen nor had to politely reject the hundreds of pastiches of greeting cards; the hackneyed rap lyrics; the poems that trip off the tongue like Chevy Chase doing his Gerald Ford impersonation; the forced, artificial rhymes; the poems that seem to have been generated by a computer program; the pop-country imitations; or almost anything that comes in labeled “Inspirational.” You have not—and you should thank whatever minimalist conception of god you retain that you have not. In fact, the most pertinent argument you could have made is one that you did not have the facts to make: You could have suggested that after raking through scores of such painfully mediocre material, the editors may have thought a poem like your own that showed some originality, promise or potential looked far better by way of contrast.

    So, the long and short of it is that, yes, we have more space and a broader audience, and so we feel at liberty to run a poem by a poet (one of the ones you singled out for derision) who is not yet sixteen. Many readers enjoyed the poem, though of course it would not pass muster at a journal like The Emerson Review. Although—don’t be surprised if, ten years from now, she doesn’t submit a poem to The Emerson Review that is accepted there.

    “I understand the difficulties of putting together any kind of publication, and though I’ve never worked for a daily publication, I can imagine the strains it puts on its editors. But as editors, we must realize our names become attached to the pieces we publish. [ . . . ] I do not believe the editors stand behind every poem they publish, but instead are desperate to fill the gaps in their publishing schedule.”

    Well, I won’t belabor the points I’ve already made; I’ll simply add this: a closer parallel to a traditional poetry journal would be the forthcoming Best of Every Day Poets anthology. Therein the editors collect their 100 favorites from the first year, and on that basis one might pass a more fair judgment and offer more justifiable criticism.

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