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The Poetry Ark: Built for Deep Water

Show me a system in decline and I’ll show you another ready to celebrate its demise, however gamely the former hangs in there.  I’m not speaking of mining or offshore drilling or other gentle pastimes, but of the rough-and-tumble world of literary publishing.  Consider what the system looks like for poetry:

  • Poems submitted to a magazine must not have been published previously, no matter how different the audience may be.
  • Poems can usually be submitted to one magazine at a time only.
  • Submissions likely must arrive when the academic year is in session, in order to take advantage of faculty counsel and student assistance.
  • The author may wait as long as four months for a reply, tying up a set of poems for a good chunk of the year.
  • All transactions are likely on paper.  When it comes to submissions in particular, it’s as though the digital age never arrived.

Competitions are not the same as literary publications, and awards are not why poets write poetry.  But a few features of the Poetry Ark, a new online quest for 100 memorable poems, cross over.  Among the possibilities that apply equally to competitive events and literary magazines:

  • Use technology more fully to streamline and expedite transactions
  • Allow submissions to be in a digital format
  • Accept work that is under consideration elsewhere
  • Consider previously published work that had a small run or audience
  • Come hell or high water, respond within a month, at least two
  • Accept self-published work that meets the same high standards
  • Go where the next generation of readers will be (e.g., the Kindle)

Perhaps the biggest step we’re taking at the Poetry Ark is to give site visitors the editorial authority to advance individual poems or hold them back, depending on how visitors vote.  At the end of the day, those involved will be able to say that they immersed themselves in the community of English-language poets, made additional resources available to them, helped select and showcase the 100 best poems identified by site visitors, compiled a new anthology, introduced the poets to new markets, and, if we succeed, celebrated work that will be remembered.


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