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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Blog Posts and Literary Journals

A personal conversation which might be of wider interest

A friend messaged me with a question:

Noticing talk lately about poems posted on blogs or websites = publishing. Therefore holding back on posting new poems on my blog as hoping to submit to mags etc., many of which stipulate "not previously published". Not knowledgable about this, trying to find out more. What do you know?

I replied:

I know that it is a grey area. Whether or not blog posts are regarded as prior publication depends on the particular editor of the particular journal/anthology. Also your facebook posts could be ineligible, depending whether your profile is Public or Friends Only. Some editors/publications have a blanket policy of no prior online appearance. Others don't count posting on personal blogs or in closed online groups as prior publication. Check, but I think the groups you publish to on fb are not closed. (This is usually not specifically applicable to other online groups in the wider blogosphere, such as Poets United and others I use, because we don't publish our poems IN the groups, we supply a link to those posts at our own blogs.)

Some poets get around this by putting things on blogs very briefly, perhaps labelled as – and being – drafts, and removing them within a week or two before submitting elsewhere. Some don't put on their blogs anything they wish to submit elsewhere. They may perhaps post such poems to their blogs after publication, with appropriate accreditation of 'first publication' as one would if publishing one's own book.

Others, such as me, blog on regardless. There are enough journals and anthologies, many online and some offline, who will include pieces that have appeared on blogs and in social media. I don't bother much anyway unless I am invited, which still sometimes happens.

On the one hand, it could be said that I can afford to thumb my nose, as I was well published in decades past and made a name for myself. I think it was more like five minutes of fame, but it's true that I had and enjoyed it.

On the other hand, I look at my blog stats and know I get many more readers by publishing to a blog than I would by appearing in even the most prestigious Australian literary journals. (Some of my old colleagues seem offended if I say that! But it's not a denigration of the literary journals or their contents to note, from their own statistics, that they have a lesser reach. It's just the nature of things.)

There is also the fact that – for reasons of convenience, really – I don't do spoken word performance any more, so no longer have the grassroots community reach in that kind of way. I get it in a different way, in a different but sometimes overlapping community, via my blog.

Depends what you want: to be read, or to have some standing in literary circles. (Both, of course; but perhaps, as things are, one must predominate.) There is a widespread view that poetry on blogs is not of a very high standard; that people publish any old thing without it having been workshopped or edited, and readers who couldn't tell a poem from a Hallmark greeting card rush to praise it. (The same view is held about self-published ebooks.) There is some truth in that; I have seen some horrendous examples thereof.

However, the poets who publish in the online poetry groups I've found have a commitment to poetry, develop rapidly through communion with other poets (just as poets do in offline groups and events) and many of them are, in my opinion, as good as anyone publishing to more 'literary' acclaim. (Well, maybe not quite as good as Mary Oliver, but – you know – she's God. *Smiling.* Some aren't too bloody far off, all the same.) Many of them have a high reputation in online poetry circles. Does that count? Well yes, judgment of one's peers and all that.

I think my opinion of their excellence counts for something, having been a teacher of poetry writing at tertiary level, a reviewer in respected publications, and a publisher of prize-winning books of poetry.

As for my own esteem, it is indeed true that I received much validation when I was younger, and no longer need anyone to assure me I'm a competent poet. I think I am also pretty good by now at assessing fairly objectively which of my pieces are working well, and which could be improved or scrapped. Above all, people tell me when something moves them deeply, in comments which go beyond the politely encouraging.

So yes, I do feel I can afford to thumb my nose at more traditional avenues now. It comes at a price, though. While Australian poets (and readers) of my generation remember me well, newer ones coming up have probably never heard of me. I don't, I think, have a name that will last in Australian poetry. Once I longed for literary standing in the present and fame in posterity, while some of of my confreres said,'It's all ephemeral; let's be heard NOW.' Funnily enough, in age our positions have reversed!

For you (and others) who didn't seek and get that validation years ago, it may well be important to pursue traditional paths of publication at this point, pay your dues and earn the respect you deserve. After that you can choose where to go next. Perhaps in both directions at once; there are those who do that too.

You could put the blog on hold until later – either deleting it entirely, leaving it up as a record, or changing the setting to private so only you would see it.

Or you could keep it going and choose what to put on it, e.g. stuff ABOUT your writing, such as the chapbook publicity that's already there. And/or maybe poems you think good enough to share with the world, but don't particularly wish to submit to journals.

Basically you should do what YOU want. Life's too short not to! Hopefully this helps you make a more informed choice.


  1. I write to give pleasure, and if some of my (blogged) poetry does that, then I am happy - probably read by far more people than it would be in a literary journal. I do submit, but always read the parameters of the hournals and/or competitions. I won't be here to enjoy the hypothetical posterity which might or might not be waiting, so why not enjoy the connection with the poetry community now?

  2. Thanks for this, Rosemary. I've wondered about this, too.


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