August 30, 2010

Them as has, gets – updated

Some literary journals, such as New England Review and Ploughshares, have begun charging for e-mail electronic submissions. In other words, if you want to submit poetry or prose electronically to these publications, you need to pony up $2 to $3 dollars per submission.

Excuse me?

I first discovered this on the Avoiding the Muse blog, by New England Review’s C. Cale Dale Young, where he defends the practice, in response to a critical post on Steve Fellner’s Pansy Poetics.

In thinking this over, I’ve tried to be as fair to these two journals as I can. Here’s the best I can do for their side: e-mail [and the internet] lowers lower the barriers to submission, increasing the workload in reading and responding to them, without lowering costs or increasing revenue for the magazine. It’s not really about the money; literary magazines aren’t for-profit ventures, but labors of love. The writers would be paying for postage, paper and printer ink to send a postal submission (which is still free at these magazines). Nobody wins if the magazines don’t survive.

I hope somebody can make a better argument, because that one is pretty weak tea. If it really isn’t about the money, but — as I suspect — about discouraging submissions, re-raising the barriers, un-democratizing literature, that’s worse than simple greed. If it’s only about reducing workload, that’s understandable, but this is an incredibly wrong-headed approach.

Let me make it clear: I know I’m no Seamus Heaney, but you are not providing me with a service by agreeing to read my submission. I’m doing you a service by sending it to you. Even if it’s the most pathetic drivel written this century. And what you are asking most writers to pay for is the privilege of being rejected.

New England Review and Ploughshares certainly won’t mourn the loss of my poems, but they won’t be seeing them. I won’t pay a (regressive) reading fee, though I could probably afford it. Call it a gratuitous act of solidarity.


1. I typoed C. Dale Young’s name in the original post. My apologies.

2. I should have said “electronic submissions,” not “e-mail submissions.” I don’t think it changes the principles involved, but it was inaccurate.

3. My comment (in the comments) about a “form-letter comment” was gratuitously snarky. Again, apologies.


August 29, 2010

Looking at the Gnostics from an era of wizardry

I’ve been reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Gnostic Gospels, by J. Michael Matkin. I admire some things about the Gnostics, such as their poetic take on interpreting scripture and their DIY attitude towards mythology. Their view of creation as a mistake, though… not so much. But rejection of the world might have been an easier sell to people with harder lives than mine. I have it pretty good, compared not only to many of my contemporaries, but to most people (including the rich) throughout human history. Certainly I take for granted gadgets that would have been the most astonishing magic anytime before the last few centuries. Just the ability to conjure up music anytime I want puts me miles ahead of Hermes Trismegistus.

August 17, 2010

Dream: Painting, poetry and fish

Filed under: art,General,Oneirica,Poetry,Writing — crcb @ 10:10 pm
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I don’t usually blog my dreams, but I have a far, faint intuition that this one might be about writing.


I’m part of a group on a mission.

One will create the painting. She acquires a canvas, and pictures keep revealing themselves on it — a portrait of a lonely young man, a Kandinsky-like abstraction. The artist will have to find the true painting that is already there.

Another will create the poetry. She meets her literary idol, a middle-aged man, gray-haired but vigorous, who agrees to participate. As they travel around together, she realizes that he typically gets the title and the “occasion” (her word), then declares the piece finished. Only later, and only sometimes, does he write the real poem. But he is a poet, when his ego and laziness get out of the way. She suggests going to the lake and waiting. He thinks it will be a waste of time, as seeking inspiration outdoors usually is, but she prevails.

The “lake” turns out to be indoors: an oddly-shaped irregular solid of a wooden room, with a rectangular pool in the middle which holds a single, immense fish, as large as a person. The room has a chapel feel about it, with people sitting respectfully on wooden benches. I’m with the poets at this point. The fish wants out. The pool goes under one wall to join the outdoor lake, but the opening is too small for the fish to swim through. I make a joke about going to the attic and letting it out, and immediately a female security guard is there. When she understands that I was joking, she says, “Well! You took me somewhere different!” Then we all realize that the fish is gone.

I’m walking to buy something. I wear my green jacket (for the pockets), even though it’s summer and I’m in shorts and a hawaiin shirt. It’s raining, with white particulate matter in the air. Pollution, I think, and now everyone can see it: the game is up for the polluters. Or is it snow, or hail?

Our group is at a garden party. So is our opposition.

August 15, 2010

On conversation

Filed under: General — crcb @ 3:02 pm

Nerds, guys and other clueless people often think conversation is about conveying information, and that if there’s no new data in the content, the conversation is meaningless. More than half the time, the function of conversation is social, not cognitive: establishing bonds, jockeying for position in the group, performing a mating ritual. This is as true in the workplace as in personal life. (Maybe not the mating part, but that isn’t entirely absent.)

Link of the Random Interval of Time, 2010-08-15: QuestionCopyright

Filed under: Links,LotRIoT — crcb @ 10:09 am
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This site describes itself as “A Clearinghouse For New Ideas About Copyright” (capitalization theirs, I can only assume it’s the site subtitle). This is a conversation we need to be having. The intellectual property world is torn. Within the bounds of legal behavior, we have on the one extreme those who see any sharing of “content” without an exchange of money as poaching — who view public libraries as legalized theft — who find it reasonable to charge a grocery store stocker a public performance fee if she sings while she works; and on the other extreme, we have… well, people like me, who in theory question the concept of intellectual property, and who in pragmatic terms think fewer fences and more sharing benefit creators and consumers alike (not that they are distinct sets of people). New, open business models don’t benefit the middlemen, though. That’s one sticking point. Another is the desire of some successful and aspiring authors and musicians to keep the horribly skewed profit distribution of the current system, either because they have struck it rich or expect to. But as Masnick of TechDirt and others have pointed out, it might be getting harder to make a fortune with content, but it’s getting easier to make a living. As a good neo-socialist, I’m all for that redistribution of opportunity.

(Climbs off soapbox)

Anyway, that’s me. Check out QuestionCopyright for yourself, and question copyright.

August 14, 2010

Poem: What Things

Filed under: Poetry,Writing — crcb @ 1:19 pm
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What things

What things I try to build a self from!
A child’s bedroom with peeling paper and a hole
in the plaster-and-lath wall and gouged floorboards,
tall weeds in a garbage-thick ditch, rank smells,
broken glass gleaming, slugs and grackles,
rotted tree stumps, unused rooms and subterranean
parking garages, stairs to a vacant lot, oil spots
on asphalt, sleet and fog, spiders, pill bugs, frogs,
all things shunned, cracked, rejected,
I drag home and glue together and place
labeled and signed on a shelf.
My mother would leave the chicken breasts
and drumsticks for us, and nibble on the neck;
claimed she liked it. I believe her.

–Carl Bettis

August 6, 2010

Not necessarily a haiku

Filed under: Poetry,Writing — crcb @ 11:08 pm
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soon to sleep -- and from those dreams, what changes?

(I have to get a better camera than my cellphone!)

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