As most of you will have noticed, there aren’t many poems here. And there’s a reason for that, but I’m beginning to question whether or not it’s still actually valid.
Being relatively new to the poetry ‘scene’ (how that word still evokes images of the 1960s, smoky basements and Liverpool Poets!) and a bit wet behind the ears when it comes to unspoken rules and protocol, I’m always open to advice and guidance from those poets with more experience; seasoned poets, if you will, ones who’ve been around a bit, know what you can and can’t get away with, where the boundaries of decency are – that sort of thing. Well – getting back to the point – I was advised that, actually, it’s not a great idea for a poet to have a blog or website stuffed full with almost every piece of work they’ve ever produced. The justification for this nugget of wisdom is that often, publishers, magazines and competition rules stipulate specifically that all poetry submitted should be previously unpublished work, and that, in this digital age, the posting of one’s work on the web is considered as publication – in some eyes, anyway.
Now, paradoxically, I can understand why poets fortunate enough to have had work published try to avoid it appearing online gratis, because once in print, anyone interested enough in reading it should, not unreasonably, be expected to fork out for the privilege – otherwise poetry publishing as a business and service would cease to exist; so if you want to read my one (so far) published poem A Sunflower’s Tale, then I’m duty-bound to direct you to Puppywolf Publishing’s website, there to purchase a copy of Best of Manchester Poets Vol. 3., and allow Keir Thomas to eat another meal.
But how realistic is it to expect that once a poem has been tossed into the maelstrom of the world-wide web that it’s gone forever, and can never appear in printed publications (or even e-publications) or considered as a competition entry? And how often do publishers or competition judges check anyway? I know of many poets whose blog or Write Out Loud profile is full to the gunnels with work, and I struggle to believe that none of this is ever submitted for publication elsewhere. Equally, I know of other poets whose work is virtually impossible to find online, and who observe both letter and spirit of what potentially constitutes online ‘publication’. But which is right? And how does the unpublished poet go about getting his or her work known publicly, without it being forever barred from print in the process?
Maybe there is a middle ground. Notwithstanding the tendency of certain search engines to keep more stuff than is good for them in a cache for years to come, material on personal websites and blogs can be deleted just as easily as it’s posted – as indeed I did with my NaPoWriMo haul. So would there be anything terribly wrong in, say, posting a selection of poems on a blog and replacing it every couple of months or so with different stuff? And of course removing completely anything that’s actually accepted for formal publication in the meantime; I can’t really see any modern publisher arguing with that (although maybe you know different…!)
So that’s what I’m going to have a think about; perhaps the poems will return soon.