The "Prestige" of Poetry
Yesterday, I posted the link to Stacey Lynn Brown's blog where she talks about her dealings with Cider Press Review after she won their book contest. CPR has responded with a letter from it's co-editor, Robert Wynne, that addresses none of Stacey's concerns, but attempts to save face and make her out to be a meddling, "abusive" poet. It sounds just like something Wynne would write. I met him at the Austin Poetry Festival a few years ago and his nose was so high up in the air you could have skied off it.
Barbara Jane Reyes asks some valid questions at her blog in response to Stacey's experience:
My central question remains: Why the contest? I still haven’t heard a sensible response to this question, if it’s mainly publication we seek. If it’s mainly publication that poets seek, then it doesn’t make sense to me for poets to privilege the contest over general manuscript submissions queries and open reading periods. If it’s “prestige,” “respect,” we are after, I am also fairly certain we can gain “prestige” and “respect” in other, less costly, less insane, less humiliating ways.
My last question: How do we subvert this poetry contest system when so many poets (literally) buy into it so completely.
Poets need to stop buying into the contest cycle of abuse, let go of the notion that self-publishing makes you less of a poet and that working with a small or micro-press won't bring you any "prestige." Basically, get over yourself. There are many ways to get your poetry to readers besides the ones pounded into your head at MFA programs, through Poets & Writers magazine and by other sniffy poets who have achieved what they believe to be "prestige." Magicians break down their tricks into three stages, the final one called "the prestige" where the illusion is produced. If you ask me, prestige is not only an illusion but a delusion suffered by many poets.
One question I posed at Barbara Jane's blog was who is the arbiter of "prestige" in poetry? Your thoughts, readers?