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Bruce Guernsey on Multiple Submissions

The Spoon River Poetry Review Editor Bruce Guernsey adds his two cents in the Summer/Fall 2009 issue on the misuse of multiple submissions. Though he completely understands their use given the “exasperating expectation of waiting,” only to receive a rejection letter, he recounts his having read several cover letters for contest poems also submitted to other contests, with checks written out to those other contests – and others not signed or bounced – and of going through the time-consuming process on his end, only to have the poems rescinded because they were accepted elsewhere. It’s also general submissions as well that he is more often receiving at SRPR, but with another publication’s name on the letter.

Guernsey recalls Donald Hall’s labeling of this multiple submissions batching as “McPoem” and the movement of “poe-biz.” Guernsey writes: “In addition, the letters themselves have taken on a generic sameness: an opening paragraph asking that the poems be considered…then an indented section in bold face listing the poems, and last by a longer paragraph listing the poet’s publications and mandatory M.F.A. I have also heard (with horror) that there are actual services out there that will handle all of one’s submissions and rejections, getting poems constantly in the mail and frantically keeping them there.

“‘Multiple submissions’ is conducive to mass production, and acquiring a long list of publishing credits has become, for some, their goal. But poetry is not some kind of commodity like pork bellies. We should care where our poems go and who reads them. Anne Bradstreet even thought of her poems as her children – a sentimental notions perhaps, but one that kept her from sending them carelessly into the street.”

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