Foetry.com is an advocate organization seeking to protect and inform consumers of the “products” of the poetry business in America. These products include not only poetry books, magazines, and anthologies, but also fee-based poetry contests, poetry conferences, dues-taking member organizations, writers’ retreats and colonies, poetry workshops (both private and academic), and academic degrees in poetry writing. In other words, everything we pay money for in the pursuit of being or becoming poets in America1
The primary focus of Foetry.com is the fee-based poetry contest2
Because poetry contests are not held to strict and standardized guidelines or monitored for ethical practices, the contest prizes can be awarded to students, friends, family members, and/or colleagues of the judges, editors, or screeners.
Foetry.com believes that all such submissions should be disqualified from winning. Additionally, we feel that the non-winning entrants, who send their submission fees to these contests where the winners have privileged relationships with the judges, editors, and/or screeners, are being defrauded3
We believe that poetry contests should be fair, ethical, and entirely transparent4
from start to finish. Would-be entrants should not only know that a contest is safeguarded against impropriety, but they should also have full access to the details of the evaluation process their submissions go through, and as accurate as possible an idea of their actual chances of winning and being chosen as finalists.
Foetry.com seeks to help the many poets disenfranchised5
by the current contest publication system by monitoring, investigating, and criticizing the American poetry industry. We will publicly issue warnings about publishers, editors, contest judges, and poets who have engaged in practices that demonstrate impropriety and/or fraud.
It is not our goal to attack individuals, but we do name all parties demonstrating impropriety and place them on a Watch List6
. We recommend that poetry consumers seriously consider not sending their money to individuals, businesses, and organizations on the Foetry Watch List, especially with the expectation that they will receive their money’s worth: a fair, merit-based7
evaluation of their work.The Po-Biz
Foetry.com believes that the PoBiz is destructive8
to American poetry. We consider it an important part of our mission to provide much needed PoBiz criticism and dissent9
in the form of investigative journalism, op-eds, and literary and industry criticism. We believe that attitudes critical of the PoBiz are widespread, but poets are too infrequently aware that many opinions normally labeled “fringe” or “radical” are in fact very common and credible. Foetry.com wants to help these important voices of dissent reach an audience and to provide an online community10
where establishment and antiestablishment opinions can be communicated and argued without one or the other being silenced.Who We Are
Foetry.com was founded by Alan Cordle in 2004 as an American Poetry Contest Watchdog. In April 2006, Alan decided to step aside and turn the administration of Foetry.com over to a group of volunteers hoping to organize and institutionalize Foetry.com.
Since that time, Foetry.com has been undergoing a steady evolutionary process under the guidance of site administrator, Matt Koeske, and staff members, Jennifer Semple Siegel and Nomi Hurwitz, who had all previously been Foetry.com forum members. Matt, Jennifer, and Nomi continue to work with Alan and the other long-time Foetry.com forum members to keep Foetry.com community-oriented and driven.Mission Statement FAQ:
- The American poetry industry (often referred to as the “PoBiz”) is largely a development of the last decades of the 20th century and has presented would-be poets with a system of indoctrination and credentialing heretofore unique in the history of poeting. The publication of new poetry is not sufficiently lucrative to sustain the interest of many large (and increasingly corporatized) publishing houses and has therefore been relegated to alternative publication systems: primarily small, independent and academic presses, journals, and online magazines. (CLMP estimates that there are about 600 US lit mags that publish at least once a year and another 400-700 that publish irregularly or in very small quantities, not including online journals.)
It is the belief of Foetry.com that these poetry publishers are not sufficiently regulated or held responsible for their publication practices. Yet, practicing poets have been forced to either accept these practices or invest in attempts at self-publishing their work (an option which is not only typically considered an act of vanity, but is also likely to damage the poet’s career).
- The poetry manuscript contest is, in effect, the only way to publish a first book of poems with the marketing and professional support of the American poetry industry. There are at least 750 annual poetry and fiction contests currently running, many of which charge (on average for manuscript contests) $25 for a submission fee (WinningWriters.com: http://www.winningwriters.com/contests/pci/pc_lists.php). That fee is supposed to provide the entrant’s submission with the opportunity to compete against the work of other entrants on the basis of merit. Sometimes it also pays for a subscription to the journal holding the contest and even a copy of the winner’s published book.
any act, expression, omission, or concealment calculated to deceive another to his or her disadvantage; specifically : a misrepresentation or concealment with reference to some fact material to a transaction that is made with knowledge of its falsity or in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity and with the intent to deceive another and that is reasonably relied on by the other who is injured thereby (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©1996).
See Also: Mail Fraud: http://www.usps.com/websites/depart/inspect/usc18/mailfr.htm
- Due to the lack of transparency in these contests, most entrants are never truly aware of whether and how their work is being evaluated or what their real odds of winning or qualifying as finalists are. But more than 100,000 submissions (not including "vanity" and known scam contest submissions; see Winning Writers Contests to Avoid) are entered in poetry contests every year, most of which have little or no chance of winning.
- Disenfranchised and “outsider” poets: these terms are used here to describe practicing poets who are not being supported effectively by the publication, credentialing, and indoctrination system popularly known as the PoBiz. It is not meant to carry any romantic connotations of rebellion or “righteousness” or artistic talent. An outsider poet is simply a poet who is not inside (i.e., inside of and empowered by one or more of the institutions of the PoBiz, such as academia or mainstream journals and presses).
The majority of outsiders are accurately described as amateurs, but we believe the common equation (made by insiders) of outside with amateur is founded on a prejudice. There is no reason that a poet must seek approval from or employment in academia in order to write significant poetry. Likewise, there is no reason to draw any relationship between a poet’s talent or literary worth and that poet’s advocacy and patronization of the PoBiz publication system (especially in light of that system’s demonstrated tendency to publish abundances of mediocre poetry with almost no negative or truly evaluative criticism whatsoever . . . making it only a slightly more obscured variety of vanity publication).
Although there may very well be many poets of talent disenfranchised by today’s PoBiz to the loss of poetry readers and literature in general, we feel the disenfranchisement of amateur and struggling poets is at least as great a concern . . . not because these poets “deserve an audience”, but because these poets are being misled and at times even defrauded by a system of publication that intends to use them only as a funding resource to promote its own agendas. The PoBiz derives much of its power to dictate how poetry in America will be defined from the continued deception of this group of disenfranchised poets by convincing them that they have a chance for success and approval while keeping them distinctly disenfranchised.
We believe that the publication of poetry is best funded by sales of poetry books and magazines, and that manipulating a disenfranchised group out of its money in order to fund poetry publication is unethical. Not only is this standard practice disgraceful and abusive, it also assures the continued mediocrity of the art form, ignoring, as it does, the actual demand in America for poetry (which is, no doubt, very minimal).
The PoBiz has decided to produce more poetry than America wants or needs, and it can only do this at the expense and deception of the many disenfranchised poets who have been willing to fund this funneling of money to the PoBiz elite as a gamble on their own highly improbably indoctrination.
- Foetry.com is seriously dedicated to fact-checking and fair, even-handed journalism. We only publish fact-confirmed information on our Watch Lists and provide all public sources for that information to be checked and re-verified by anyone interested. Sometimes, our investigations are initiated by whistleblowers and tipsters who wish to remain anonymous in order to protect their careers and avoid personal harassment (which is, regrettably, not uncommon). Although Foetry.com staunchly protects the identities of these whistleblowers, we never publish information on our Watch Lists based solely on these tips.
Parties are placed on the Watch List when we believe there is enough evidence to warrant such placement. In the event that new, verified evidence is discovered that negates the previous evidence used to watch-list a specific party or parties, Foetry.com will remove the watch-listed party or parties from the List and issue a public retraction and apology.
- We understand that any evaluation of artistic merit in the context of a poetry contest is largely a matter of the personal taste of the judge or judges. Foetry.com accepts this aesthetic taste as a valid ultimate criterion for judgment of manuscripts in poetry contests. What we would like to see is a contest that is sufficiently regulated and transparent, so that it guarantees this ultimate criterion of judgment to all paying entrants. That is, we would like contests to be assayable by each entrant based on this criterion, so that an entrant is able to estimate (on the basis of potential aesthetic compatibility between her/him and the judge) whether sending money to the contest is a worthwhile venture. The odds of winning any contest should be as estimable as possible.
- Many discussions on the Foetry.com forums deal with the negative impact of the PoBiz on poetry and poets in America. This criticism is implicit in everything we do and write. Ultimately, we believe that the PoBiz is foisting mediocre poetry upon poetry readers by monopolistic might, and that not only its practices but its ideologies undermine the quality of the art form. We see the PoBiz as anti-literary, in that it uses the currency of poetry to provide short term benefits (monetary, career, fame, comfort, etc.) to a privileged and unrepresentative elite at the expense of generating and disseminating literature of lasting worth for the culture as a whole. We think poetry should be a reflection of and addition to the entire culture, not simply a currency used by a tiny percentage of the population to obtain goods and status for themselves alone.
If you are interested in seeking out more information, arguments, and analyses on this subject, please join the discussions in our forums or start your own discussion thread.
- Dissent is needed in any system or group as a check for power. Among the PoBiz’s many failings is an almost total lack of criticism of its products, practices, and ideologies. Although attitudes critical of “academic poetry” and writing workshops are very common (even among academics in the field), these criticisms are rarely given an official forum or elaborated analytically and published. A scattered handful of books and the occasionally critical article represent the entire body of dissent against the PoBiz existent today, but this scattering is anything but organized.
In fact, we have no organization or journal dedicated to dissenting views in the PoBiz (although arguably, there are some organizations and publications that express alternative views and ideologies, but these typically suffer no dissent to their credos either). It is rare to even see legitimate literary criticism today, as this has fallen away to the supremacy of the promotional blurb.
Foetry.com wants to start filling this void. We hope to function as a lens that focuses the dissent that is rampant but disorganized in the PoBiz into a coherent body of information and community interaction. We not only do our best to bring dissenting opinions and information to the poetry public, but we also provide an online community in which these opinions are welcome from all.
It is our belief that simply getting people together in a place that allows them to voice and share such opinions is liable to have some reformative effect on the PoBiz. Many poets have felt estranged from the poetry community for merely contemplating criticism of the PoBiz or questioning its dogmas and practices. Foetry.com is one small force saying that you are far from alone in this, and that we are stronger and wiser together. The disenfranchisement and ostracism of dissenters should be seen as a sure indication of corruption, narrow-mindedness, and dogmatism in the PoBiz.
- The Foetry.com member forums are the heart of the institution. They may represent the only forums on the web at this time that are primarily dedicated to dissent against the PoBiz and bring dissident poets and poetry readers together to bounce information and ideas off of one another and even to organize resistance. But they are far more than commiseration sessions for the disenfranchised. They also function as the only arena in which the voices of those disenfranchised can communicate with PoBiz insiders. As a result, ideological worlds and “poetic classes” are constantly colliding. Issues tend to be extremely contentious and tempers do flare.
But we believe this is the essence of useful, constructive communication. Poets on opposite sides of the tracks get to argue their beliefs with one another. This kind of communication could never happen in a PoBiz institution like the writing program, but this clash and cross-pollination is essential to a healthy poetry.
We are dedicated to the promotion of these forums and the improved communication between poetry’s insiders and outsiders. For this reason, moderation of posting is negligible and the principles of free speech are upheld as much as possible. This means that there is no club, clan, or group protecting various viewpoints. Every individual member will have to argue any contentious position . . . and argue it well in order to withstand criticism intact.
We feel this is what communication and the intelligent use of language are all about. There are no membership cards or affiliations on the Foetry.com forums. Each participant is only as credible as his or her use of language or argument is credible.
We only mention this, because it all too often goes unrealized or misunderstood by new members who have grown used to having the credibility of their beliefs sanctioned by their group affiliations rather than by strength of opinion or argument.