Poetry Dot Scam

Sometime ago, I quickly typed up a poem and submitted it to Poetry.Com for the hell of it. I soon forgot about it until I got an envelope in the mail a few days ago. They were willing to spend $0.33 using a Pitney Bowes machine to send me a congratulatory letter that was too good to be true:

Dear Shinichi,
I am delighted to inform you that your poem “Untitled” has been awarded our prestigious Editor’s Choice Award because it displays a unique perspective and original creativity — judged to be qualities found in exceptional poetry. Congratulations on your achievement.

Sounds wonderful. Very saccharine. Here’s the catch:

Your poem is also featured in a deluxe hardbound edition, which, as expected, will soon be sold out. We have, however, reserved a limited number of copies that are now available only to poets included in this distinctive volume. Because you are one of these poets, and if you haven’t already ordered a copy, or wish to obtain additional copies, this is your last opportunity to do so.

Okay. This volume is so hot that everyone and their grandmothers are out to buy it. Poetry lovers everywhere are just dying to have a copy. But here’s what’s really good: I’m not going to get two free copies. I have to pay to receive what has now universally been accepted as a payment to a writer for submitting to a publication. I’m so in love with myself as a writer that I will jet and wet myself like the Bellagio fountains just to have two hardbound copies containing something I wrote.

Yeah, right! Here’s a breakdown of how much it costs to order these illustrious tomes:

One Copy……………………$49.95
Two Copies………………..$80.00
Half Case (6 Books)…….$199.00
Full case (12 Books)… ..$369.00

I’m not finished. It gets better:

Oh, and one final note. Many people have asked if we can make available a commemorative plaque to present their poetry in formal fashion. We are so glad to be able to do this. Your poem can be beautifully typeset on archive quality vellum with your choice of borders, then mounted on a walnut-finish plaque under lucite. The 10 1/2 by 13 inch plaques are truly impressive ways to exhibit your work. They also make wonderful gifts. Please see the enclosed material for further information. Again, congratulations on your achievement.

The letter ends there. No closing with Sincerely, Very Truly Yours, etc., no signature from the editor. The letter only fills one half of the paper and an Editor’s Choice Award Certificate fills the other half. Wow! I’m a certified poet!

Well, I am certifiable if I let any of my cash fly towards them. But, they must be counting on that, for there is more. A small slip of paper was added to the certificate and order form:

Every so often, as our editors read through the poems we are preparing for publication, they personally select a few poems they believe would display a wonderful expressive quality of read by a professional reader. Your editor believes your poem is one of those exceptional poems that can be superbly presented, not only in print, but also through the spoken word. And I heartily agree.

Alright, my poem’s not that good, though the person mentioned in the poem might appreciate it. Plus, why would I want to have someone else read my poem for a recording? If I buy a recording of Dylan Thomas’s poems, I want to hear Mr. Thomas, dammit! I want to hear the Dylan before Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan. And he did record plenty of his poems.

If I want to hear my poems recorded, I’d do it myself and upload it as a podcast. Poetry was on the early incarnations of ShindoTV (in the late 1990’s), but I just don’t do poetry anymore.

There is a couple of paragraphs of “blah, blah, blah,” but here’s where it really gets good:

You won’t find this service offered on the enclosed order form because it applies only to a few poets, but if you wish to take advantage of this opportunity (just $49.00 for the complete selection of all three CDs, plus $8.00 postage), simply fill the information on the back of this note. And, as always, your satisfaction is assured with a money back-guarantee.

I really need more CD’s and someone’s brilliant rendition of my cheesy poem is going to enhance my collection. I’m really going to pay for someone to read my stuff.

The name signed on the Certificate and the little slip was Howard Ely. I Googled his name and this is what came up.

All they got from me is a poem I don’t even care about and some cheap accolades. The Google results are littered with victims and cautionary tales about Poetry.Com.

This is what you do if you want to find legitimate poetry publication venue:

  • Look at the Writer’s Market. You can buy it on Amazon.Com, Barnes & Ignoble, or Borders. Better yet, find the current edition at your local public library and read it for free.
  • Go through writer mags such as Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and Poets and Writers. Poets and Writers would be the best bet as they have ads on poetry journals and MFA programs for poetry.
  • Speaking of MFA’s, perhaps you should get one. But, this is a more expensive book, as it takes thousands of dollars in tuition and several hundred dollars in thesis production costs. Something to consider only if you are truly dedicated. At least you have the chance to meet other poets and the professors know about publishing venues. Nonetheless, a money suck.

Thanks for the material, Poetry dot Skank! I couldn’t have written this evening’s piece for ShindoTV without you!

There’s no money in poetry. This is why so many of them have “day jobs” as professors. Then there are the down and out art damage types who frequent cafes and read bad poetry on open-mic night. In any case, “paying to play” for poetry is wrong.

5 thoughts on “Poetry Dot Scam

  1. Ah, I love those! They make me laugh (like Miss Swan).A couple of days ago, I got a letter inviting me to put my organization’s name on someone else’s workshop – they’ll do all the work, they just want to give me credit. All I have to do is give them a sum equal to a quarter of my annual operating budget. [yiddish]Such a deal![/yiddish]… good times …

  2. Hmm… like Brian, it sounds curiously like the time I was in high school and was listed in “Who’s Who of American High School Students.” I never bought the hardbound edition, natch (I’d never get the money for it anyway.), but my journalism teacher did get a copy. And there I was, name in bold print and everything.Whatever.

  3. Shinichi, I’m curious. Did your poem start out, “Roses are red…”I’m kind of bummed, now. My stuff is so bad that I haven’t even been picked for a scam.What a world.

  4. Wow, that reminds me of those letters my parents used to get when I was in high school about me being selected for some “Top High School Students” list. All they had to do was submit my picture and pay some outrageous fee for a copy of the book. I remember going to school over the next week and nearly every student was talking about how they’d been selected for this book. Hilarious.

  5. It did not start out “Roses are red…”I’m not that bad!In my graduate school career, I had my poems critigued by Wanda Coleman and lived to tell about it. She’s tough. She liked some of my poems and hated others.I don’t think some of these lucky winners would survive a critque from her, Nikki Giovanni, or any other famous poet.@Chris: You are so wicked! ;)@Brian and Fred: That book has to be a real ingenius scam.

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