Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Just read over the whole Fence brou-ha-ha in Ron's comment boxes. What a remarkable capacity they have for attracting ire, though I do understand how some people might see their responses to criticisms (albeit anonymous and cowardly criticisms) as high-handed. The Fence editors have not always been the best defenders of themselves, as the Evans controversy showed—on the other hand, it's difficult to keep your cool in the face of attack. People are mighty pissed off at the thought of wasting their $20 fees. Who knows—maybe the money I've sent (and will probably continue to send) to the Fence Modern Poets Prize constitutes a donation that won't ever result in my publishing one of those beautiful French-flapped books. But as should be obvious, I'm the last person now to complain about the unfairness of contests: I've won two without any previously existing relationship with the judges and editors. It does increase my faith in the process. Plus, I feel confident enough now to spend my money supporting publishing projects that I like, even if I will not be directly included in them. The books Ron has been discussing by Wagner, Sharma, and Corless-Smith are all wonderful books; I'm happy if my $60 (three years of entry fees) helped make them possible. I'm going to try and let that be my guide as to where I spend contest money in the future. Though truth be told, it would be nice to bypass the whole thing for my next book. As I've said before, I'm attracted to the model of something like the New California Poetry series, where there's a reading period and no fee. I actually prefer the activist intervention/tastemaking of an editor or team of editors to being anonymously anointed by a judge you're liable never to meet. Why do any of this if not to build relationships—what else could "wanting to be read" mean? Even if you only want to be read by posterity—especially then.

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