Poetry Book Contests Should be Abolished:

Why Contests Are the Stupidest Way to Publish First Books


In the May/June 2011 Poets & Writers, there’s a feature on writing contests. Editor Kevin Larimer (all credit to him for asking the right questions) interviews four poetry first book contest administrators, Stephanie G’Schwind (director of the Center for Literary Publishing and editor of Colorado Review), Michael Collier (director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference), Camille Rankine (program and communications coordinator at Cave Canem Foundation), and Beth Harrison (associate director of the Academy of American Poets and administrator of the Walt Whitman Award), discussing issues of fairness, impartiality, process, revenues, and results. (Full Disclosure: I’ve been published in Colorado Review and consider G’Schwind an excellent editor; and I know Collier from Bread Loaf).

The contest model means a poet submitting a manuscript with a fee of around $25, and being part of a pool of anywhere from a few hundred to more than a thousand manuscripts judged “blindly”–we’ll see soon what that means in poetry contest parlance. The winner gets about a thousand dollars along with publication, and publicity in cloistered academic poetry circles. The 999 losers print out another copy of the manuscript and write another check to yet another contest, never giving up hope. >> READ MORE

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