Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Fledgling poets, beware...

Back in October, I got some spam from poetry.com inviting me to enter a poetry contest and have my work judged. Now, unsolicited email ranks up there with Liberal corruption on the list of things I'd like to see less of, but I made an exception and investigated this one. I checked out the site thoroughly and decided, on the spur of the moment, really, to enter a poem. According to the rules of the contest, I could write in any form; the only restriction was on length...no more than 24 lines.
At the time, we were neck-deep in the adoption process, so naturally I chose to write on adoption. And because I wasn't feeling particularly creative that morning, I titled my work


I came and wept
And laughed and slept
And grew
I ran and played
And dreamed and prayed
And knew
You took me in
As your own kin
And then
You let me be
Both loved and free
And when
We'd fully grown
You'd fully shown
Your worth:
My mom and pa
Who never saw
My birth.

I sent this thing off and promptly forgot about it.
Two months later, some "junk" mail came for me from poetry.com. It almost got thrown out. I opened it, though, and found out that my poem had been judged and found worthy of publication. I was, furthermore, a semi-finalist for a top prize of $10,000.00 U.S. The book containing my poem would be published this spring and I would be eligible for a discount.
Oh, was I ever naive. Visions of being a published poet danced merrily in my head and I never stopped to think, not even once. Had I but considered that even hole-in-the-wall magazines pay their contributors with copies, if nothing else, I would have dismissed this whole thing for the scam it is.
Instead, I sent off a proof of my poem, along with instructions to charge me for a couple of copies of the book. That was very early this year. Since then, no book, no sign of my Visa being charged, but I've receieved invitations to a poetry convention in Orlando "where I would be awarded a Silver Bowl (retail value: $200) as a Poet of Merit". Cost to me: $2600.00 (U.S.) And just today, I got a near-identical letter inviting me to ANOTHER convention, this one in Washington, D.C. Apparently I'm up for Poet of the Year. And if I act now and don't delay, my shit will turn to gold before my very eyes.

As a public service, I'm spreading the word: don't bother entering contests from poetry.com.

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