I applaud John Casteen IV and Ted Genoways, who finally faced the three-headed mongrel that is foetry.com. They have been silent members of the site forum, using their own names there for more than a year, so it surprises me that they would attempt to discredit foetry.com, while calling for many changes we have been advocating since the site’s debut. When they contacted me for an interview shortly after my “outing,” (see Thomas Bartlett’s May 20th article) I agreed, despite the fact that few of their questions were relevant to the cause. Instead, their inquiries were geared towards attacking me, the messenger, rather than showing genuine concern for the issues of fraud, cheating, and academic integrity. After I submitted my detailed responses to them, I asked on three occasions if they had been received, and never heard back. Their interview with me is now posted at foetry.com.
Nonetheless, it is refreshing to see a call in the pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education for changes in poetry contests. Foetry.com has demanded action for more than a year. We sent letters to the Association of American University Presses, individual publishers of poetry, university presidents, attorneys, and contest administrators. All were universally ignored, or, in the case of Boise State University, the request was met with a cease and desist letter from university counsel, despite documented fraud there. When we alerted the Academy of American Poets to problems with some of its awards, their prize administrator, Ryan Murphy, did give the courtesy of a noncommittal reply, but added that his “own opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Academy.”
If the person administering prizes for the Academy cannot speak about a deeply flawed system, how can we count on various agencies to create guidelines for which, according to Casteen and Genoways, “participation would be voluntary” and “oversight would be minimal”? That is exactly why the problems with poetry contests are pervasive. As I said in my interview with the column’s authors, a legal opinion is essential regarding whether poets who are graduates and/or employees of the sponsoring institution or who are friends, former students, and lovers of judges should be eligible to enter poetry contests sponsored by universities and presses, supported by public funding and entry fees of poets totaling millions of dollars. I believe that any who call themselves academics already know the answer.