Monday, September 16, 2013

Exploring the Art of Poetry

Exploring the Art of Poetry

Poetry, like all art, is of course, about creating, about making something where there wasn’t anything before, or about making a transferable record of something felt, thought, or observed.

Not only is that the nature of the quarterly writing and reading series, The Art of Poetry at the Hickory Museum of Art, but it is also sometimes the very topic which the artists and poets who participate in the series explore.

If I’m not clear yet, try this. Artists create. Sometimes artists creations are about the act of creating. In academic circles, they like to refer to this as “meta.” If a poem deals with the process of writing poetry, it is called “meta.” If a play brings attention to the fact that it is, after all, a play, it is called metadrama.

This isn’t anything new. Shakespeare, for example, did it frequently, sometimes subtly, sometimes less so, as in, “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players: / They have their exits and their entrances; / And one man in his time plays many parts” (from As You Like It). Or “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more” (from Macbeth).

The next Art of Poetry reading will be Saturday, September 21, at 2:00 at the Hickory Museum of Art. Metalworker, Larry Heath, has many of his creations currently on exhibit at the museum, and three poets have interpreted one of his pieces as being meta, as having something to do with art, with its power and purpose, with the act of creation itself.

Series coordinator, Scott Owens, in his poem inspired by Heath’s Orange Moon, says the art of poetry “is what won’t sit still inside your head / what wakes you up at night / what calls memory back from darkness / what gives words the shape they take / what makes you wonder how much more you could do / and just why you haven’t been doing it.”

Assistant coordinator, Kelly DeMaegd, after viewing the work wrote, “The creator imagines order, / meaning, knows that if a connection / is broken, a tree burns, hills erode, / rivers flood, cattle drown, children starve.”

And regular participant in the series, Douglas Anne McHargue, writes, “This moon is so bright / it can jump off the wall / collide with our sin / burn it to embers.”

Creating, how we do it, why we do it, what it achieves, is certainly something worth thinking about, and if it’s worth thinking about, then certainly it’s worth recording those thoughts in our own way.

To see these poems in their entirety, visit the museum after September 21. To hear them, come to The Art of Poetry at the Hickory Museum of Art at 2:00 on September 21.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Poetry Society Takes Over the North Carolina Poetry Collection

Poetry Society Takes over the North Carolina Poetry Collection
by Rebecca Rider (reprinted with permission)

The Poetry Council of North Carolina is gone but not forgotten. When it disbanded in April 2013, the Council transferred its books and archives to the North Carolina Poetry Society. This legacy includes a large collection of poetry which is housed at Catawba College in Salisbury. The Poetry Society will continue to preserve and sponsor this collection.

The Society's North Carolina Poetry Collection consists of approximately 1,000 books of poetry by North Carolina poets, works of criticism, and chapbooks. Comprised mostly of entries to the Poetry Council's Oscar Arnold Young award, it also features volumes of poetry and criticism donated by members of the Poetry Council.

The collection includes works by prominent North Carolina authors such as Anthony Abbott, Betty Adcock, Jim Clark, Judy Goldman, Irene Blair Honeycutt, Michael McFee, Lenard Moore, Ruth Moose, Scott Owens, Ron Rash, David Rigsbee, Pat Riviere-Seel, Stephen Smith, Mark Smith-Soto, Katherine Soniat, and Rhett Trull.

Several of the authors included are editors of prominent magazines and professors at North Carolina colleges and universities.

Four North Carolina Poet Laureates also have a place of honor in the North Carolina Poetry Collection—Fred Chappell, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Cathy Smith Bowers, and Joseph Bathanti.

The Poetry Society plans to add more books and poets, saving a spot on the shelves for winners of their annual Brockman-Campbell Award. The books will continue to be stored in a prominent position in the Corriher-Linn-Black Library at Catawba College. The collection is currently managed by Catawba College Writer-in-Residence Dr. Janice Fuller, who serves as a liaison to the Poetry Society.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

One Day in the Life of the Poet as One-Percenter

One Day in the Life of the Poet as One-Percenter
(Tim Peeler on Top of the Green Monster at Fenway Park)

If you know anything about poetry in the 21st century, then you know that due to low book sales and other forms of waning popular support, including deep cuts in public sponsorship of the arts, most poets live very moderately, sometimes even desperately. The lucky ones hold down other jobs as teachers, technical writers, editors, “pr-hacks,” whatever they can find, and pursue their writing in narrow corners of time they squeeze out of their “real” lives.

Not surprisingly, then, Hickory poet and CVCC professor, Tim Peeler, despite being the celebrated author of 11 books, is very familiar with how 99 percent of the population lives. Recently, however, he was fortunate enough to experience the nature of life for the other one percent, at least for one day.

On August 15th, Peeler was flown to Boston by the Boston Red Sox. He was feted that evening at the posh Eastern Standard Restaurant inside the equally posh Hotel Commonwealth, two blocks from Fenway Park. The guests in his party included a former Connecticut governor, the public address announcer at Fenway, and Ted Williams’ biographer. The next day he spoke and read his poetry before a room full of Red Sox dignitaries and their guests and was then given a personal tour of Fenway that included encounters with team president, Larry Luchino; Red Sox Poet Laureate, Dick Flavin; renowned former major league pitcher, Bill “Spaceman” Lee; and sportswriter and analyst and ESPN regular, Peter Gammons. Finally, he watched the Red Sox play the Yankees alongside the Sox owners in their private, full-service suite.

All of this came to be because journalist and coordinator of the Great Fenway Writers' Series, George Mitrovich, read, enjoyed, and republished one of Peeler’s poems in his weekly baseball newsletter. CBS sports analys, Dick Enberg's enthusiastic response to Peeler's poem prompted Mitrovich to invite Peeler to join him for an outing at Fenway. While Peeler’s poetry spans a wide range of experience, he has published two books of poems about baseball, Touching All the Bases and Waiting for Godot’s First Pitch, as well as several books of local baseball history.

Here is one of the poems he read at Fenway.

Curt Flood

Try to tell ‘em Curt,
how you crowned their wallets,
climbed courtroom steps for them,
swallowed that black ball,
a scapegoat out to pasture.
They don’t remember,
can’t remember
the trash you ate,
your greedy headlines,
the slope of your career.

You are a ghost at barterer’s wing,
your smoky gray eyes
are two extra zeroes
on every contract.

Curtis Flood was a celebrated center fielder mostly for the St. Louis Cardinals in the sixties. On the field he was a defensive nonpareil, winning a Gold Glove 7 times and leading the National League in putouts four times. He also hit for better than a .300 average 6 times. Off the field he became one of the game’s most pivotal players’ rights figures when he refused to accept a trade following the ’69 season, paving the way for free agency. Peeler alludes to this legacy in the poem.

And here is another of the poems he read. This one provides a glimpse into the nature of much of the rest of Peeler's work with its refreshingly accessible Southern everyman tone, perspective, and voice.


Dodgers vs. Yanks,
Cooke Mull knew he had to be there.

First to convince his buddy, George Poovey
to freight him on his furniture delivery to Philly;
from there a night train to NYC.

With Poovey thus ensnared,
they proceeded from quiet Catawba County,
first stop, the liquor store,
second somewhere in Philly
to ditch the truck—then make for the city.

Huckleberries that they were,
they bee lined for the Empire,
becoming separated in the upper twenty—
and Poovey after an hour of wandering,
located Cooke in a bar,
tumultous, in story-telling high gear,
being fed and given drinks
to keep the comedy rolling.

In the Bronx they managed seats,
but Ebbet’s was SRO,
and the boys were packed in the back
of a horrible throng near the roof.

But Poovey who was a man of action,
reached the limit of his affability,
and along with an exaggerated
scratch of his privates,
he moaned like Wolfe’s Gant,
a most heartrending redneck truck driver moan,
calling aloud to the very gods of baseball,
“These crabs are about to drive
me completely nuts!”
And as Cooke always told it,
the crowd around them
parted like the Red Sea,
and they went forward
to a righteous view
of the remainder of the game.

I have been a devoted reader of Peeler's poetry since the early 90s, when I first encountered his poem "Carolina Trailer Park Take 5: Danny's Read Dad" in an issue of the now defunct Charlotte Poetry Review that also included a poem of mine. Because of his comfort and skill in writing about the world I come from, I list Peeler as one of the 5 most influential writers on my own work. While his baseball poems may better serve his reputation, popularity, and ascendency to the one-percent (one can dream), I'm still drawn more strongly to his brutally honest portrayals of working-class Southern life, so my favorite of his books will probably always be the much less well-known and practically impossible to find, Don't Take Me Alive. More work in that vein can be read in his selected volume, Blood River, or in what I consider his second best collection, Fresh Horses, or, on a more tightly-drawn stage in his more recent Checking Out. I had the great fortune recently to preview his newest manuscript, called Rough Beast, for which he is currently seeking a publisher, and I was impressed enough that I asked to use four of the poems in the latest issue of Wild Goose Poetry Review. One of them had already been published, but he let me use the other three (you can read those here). Once that book comes out, I suspect it may supplant Don't Take Me Alive as my favorite of Peeler's books. Regardless, the quality, quantity, voice, sense of place, honesty, and irresistible impact of Peeler's work marks him as undeniably one of the early 21st century South's most significant poets, and as a member of a much more meaningful one-percent than any determined by money could be.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting Poetry to the People

(first published in Outlook, 15 August 2013)

My favorite quotation about poetry has long been William Carlos Williams’ “It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”

A speaker at a conference I recently attended claimed that this quotation was more important now, given our current political and economic climate, than ever before and challenged those in attendance by asking what we were doing to get poetry to the people. I was happy to be able to answer that I am doing quite a bit, and now seems as good a time as any to list those out in case there is someone out there who should be taking advantage of these opportunities but is not.

Since you’re reading this, the most obvious thing I do to get poetry to the people is write this column, “Musings,” about poetry at least twice a month for the local weekly newspaper. I also archive these columns in my blog at, so that people outside the range of the newspaper can read and consider them as well. Of course, I also write and publish my own poetry. My 11th book is due out later this year, and more than 1200 of my poems have appeared one place or another.

I teach poetry and creative writing at Catawba Valley Community College as well as in workshops in the community and around the Southeast. Locally, I have given readings, talks, or workshops at Montessori at Sandy Ford, Mill Creek Middle School, and Challenger High School. I also give at least a dozen readings each year across the state in libraries, schools, and coffee shops.

Speaking of readings, I coordinate the Poetry Hickory reading series which takes place on the second Tuesday of each month at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory. These readings feature two widely published poets and an Open Mic which creates an opportunity for anyone writing poetry to share their work. Before each of these readings I facilitate Writers’ Night Out, which is a monthly gathering of area writers for networking and sharing ideas and opportunities or participating in workshops taught by Poetry Hickory’s featured writers.

Another reading I coordinate is the Art of Poetry at the Hickory Museum of Art. This one takes place quarterly, on the third Saturdays of March, June, September, and December, and consists of area poets writing and sharing poems about the works of art on display at the museum.

I edit an online quarterly journal of poetry and reviews of poetry called Wild Goose Poetry Review. I also serve as Poetry Editor of CVCC’s student arts and literary journal, called Catawba, and I edit an annual anthology of the best poems from Poetry Hickory.

Finally, I serve as the Vice President of the NC Poetry Society and the Chair of the Poetry Day Committee, which brings award-winning poets to CVCC for a day of readings and workshops each spring.

Most of these activities are announced in the local papers or on their own websites, or they can followed through my website at

I have a passion for poetry, and ultimately, I believe Williams’ statement and that of the conference speaker because I also believe as Edwin Honig claimed that people have “become indifferent about their ability to think or feel for themselves. Thus, the poet’s voice is needed now more than ever before – that voice which celebrates the difficult, joyous, imaginative process by which the individual discovers and enacts selfhood.” In short, I believe poetry helps us remember, enact, and deepen our very humanity.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Poetry and the Art of Surprising Oneself

Going through all my stuff to get everything on the new website is a bit like cleaning out the attic. I keep coming across things that I had forgotten or completely lost track of. This essay was written over a year ago, and a journal was going to use it, but they shut down before they every got to do so. In the meantime, I used it with my composition class as an illustration of documentation. Now, realizing that it has never been published elsewhere, I'm going to put it up here. In the next few days, I'm also going to repost links to some wonderful reviews that I hadn't looked at in a while. The new website, by the way, is at, and it has blurbs and reviews on all the books, easy PayPal purchasing options for the books and the new CD, interviews, links to most of the meaningful non-fiction I've written, and now I'm working on indexing everything so that it will be very easy to locate everything of significance that has been written about any of the books or individual poems. It's a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. Help me out by posting a link to it to anyone you know who is interested in poetry.

Now, here is the "new" essay.

Poetry and the Art of Surprising Oneself

Who wants to read what a poet has to say about his own poems? What moment of surprise, what joy of discovery could there be in that? Certainly the poet would see only exactly what he meant to put in the poems. Right?

The funny thing is I think it is often the case that poets don’t know everything, sometimes not even the main thing, they put into a poem, much less into a collection of poems, perhaps not at all into several years worth of poems.

Such was the case recently when I read poet and critic Connie Post’s brief review of my new book of poems, For One Who Knows How to Own Land. Certainly I was aware that “redemption”, with its connotations of buying back, rescuing from worthlessness, discovering or recreating a value where it had been lost, played a large role in my 2008 book, The Fractured World, which concludes with an image of that unavoidable, universal redemption that saves us all from utter worthlessness no matter how hard we try to be worthless. That redemption created by physical death and the inevitable “giving back” it entails:

His skin had grown so thin
it easily changed into birchbark
and started peeling away.
And his hand,
his hard right hand
which never learned to hold
anything gently turned into
a leaf that held wind,
rain, sunlight upon it,
then let everything go. (79)

So it came as no surprise when columnist and newspaper editor Barbara Burns entitled her review of the book, “Hope and Redemption in a Broken, Fractured World.”

And of course I knew that my 2010 book, Paternity, embodied the redemption of a lost childhood in the story of an abused son who becomes a loving father. Thus, the book ends with “The Daddy Poem”:

The poem of my life has been
the transformation of just
one word, leaving behind
the slap and yell, sunken
teeth of argue and fight,
teaching instead the rule
of numbers, colors, left and
right, replacing fist with open
hand to carry, hold,
soothe, pouring tea
checking for monsters, eating
crusts of bread, skin
of apples, anything unwanted. (68)

Recognizing this redemption, poet and critic Pris Campbell wrote of the book, “It’s both a book of the love of a father for his daughter and at the same time, a type of atonement for his own father’s failings. By being a better father, Owens walks away from the ghosts of his past into a better now of his own creation” (par 1).

And, yes, in The Nature of Attraction, another 2010 book, I knew Norman, the male protagonist, could redeem himself, although no critic ever said as much, only by discovering enough capacity for love within himself to leave before he could cause further harm to those he loves. Norman’s own recognition of this fact is made clear in “The Day He Left”:

Years later, old and alone,
he’d see it as his one success,
the woman he almost loved,
the day he left. (33)

And I knew all along that my 2011 book, Something Knows the Moment, would be a controversial and dubious redemption of if not religion, then at least something that might be called faith, as exemplified in these lines from “Common Ground”:

I do not believe God will bend
to kiss this mouth. I do not believe
the wine will turn to blood. But something
knows the moment of sunflower,
the time of crow’s open wing,
the span of moss growing on rock,
and water washing it away. (99)

Thus, critic and NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti astutely observes, “By turns these poems are terrifying and glorious, always luminous, informed by an abiding faith that the liturgy of poetry will leave us burnished and restored” (Owens, Fractured cover).

While redemption had played a conscious role for me in the creation of each of these earlier books, I had not thought of it as one of the primary themes of For One Who Knows How to Own Land, a book of poems primarily about growing up in the rural South. Nor had I considered redemption to be one of my persistent themes across the full range of my work. At least not until I read Post’s remark: “This book will take you through an incredible journey themed on the brutality of rural life, the sanctuaries inside the self, and how in some way, we can be redeemed” (par 1).

With that thought in mind, I see my own poems with a new understanding. I see how the line, “I finally understand / the weight of it all” (93) in “Acts of Defiance” speaks to the redemption of experience. I see how “It’s the people you care for, / or hate, who keep you / coming back, or never let you go” (91) in “Homeplace” reveals the redemption of our families of origin. I see how “And every child should know . . . / where they come from, what / they bring or take, and where when it’s all / done they might return and call home” (88-89) from “Rails” suggests the redemption of place. And I see how each of the poems in For One Who Knows How to Own Land and perhaps in all of my books finds value in someone or something once believed to be valueless.

Of course, now, with the help of Connie Post, I think what could be better than a lifetime of work finding the redemptive value inherent in the things and people around me? Robert Frost famously said, “No surprise for the poet; no surprise for the reader” (par. 148). That’s the best thing about writing poetry as perhaps opposed to writing most anything else. If you do it honestly, without a preconceived agenda, it will always be full of surprises. If you do it as former Poet Laureate Billy Collins suggests such that the poem starts “out like a lone traveler / heading into a blizzard at midnight,” then the surprise will exist not just for the reader but for the poet as well.

Works Cited

Bathanti, Joseph. Book jacket for Something Knows the Moment by Scott Owens. Main Street Rag, 2011.
Burns, Barbara. “Hope and Redemption in a Broken, Fractured World.” Observer News Enterprise, September 5, 2008.
Campbell, Pris. “Review of Paternity.” Good Reads, March 12, 2010.
Collins, Billy. “Winter Syntax.” The New York Times, 5 Nov 2012.
Frost, Robert. “Robert Frost, The Art of Poetry No. 2.” Interview with Richard Poirer. The Paris Review, No. 24. Summer 1960.
Owens, Scott. For One Who Know How to Own Land. Future Cycle Press, 2012.
Owens, Scott. The Fractured World. Charlotte: Main Street Rag, 2008.
Owens, Scott and Pris Campbell. The Nature of Attraction. Main Street Rag, 2010.
Owens, Scott. Paternity. Charlotte: Main Street Rag, 2010.
Owens, Scott. Something Knows the Moment. Main Street Rag, 2011.
Post, Connie. “For One Who Knows How to Own Land By Scott Owens -- A Review.” Amazon. 3 November 2012.

How Poems Get Written

(This is an expanded and revised version of a column published in Outlook last year around this time)


There is not a single answer to that premise. There is not a single answer to anything regarding poetry. Nevertheless, for myself, there is what might be called a pattern that the construction of a poem often follows.

Often, what later becomes a poem begins with a single phrase, line, or image.

In the case of the poem below, it was the image of an otherwise non-descript field behind a run-down finishing plant being brought to life by a blossoming of purple flowers. I saw this image while driving Highway 70 between Conover and Claremont, NC, one day. It struck me as visually appealing, so I made a u-turn, pulled off the road where I could see it, and wrote it down in my notebook.

That phrase, line, or image is then carried around for days, weeks, or months in my notebook, or in my head (admittedly a more risky approach) if I don’t get it written down.

In this case, the sentence “Behind the finishing plant a field is bursting open with purple flowers” sat in my notebook for several months. I tried several times to finish the poem, each time without satisfaction. I tried making it a haiku – no good. I tried expanding on the redemption spring offers us. That resulted in a different poem, but this line and image were still unused.

Over time, the phrase, line, or image accumulates other phrases, lines, or images until a sense of weightiness or significance or cohesion develops. Sometimes that happens gradually, sometimes in a burst, and sometimes not at all.

In this case, it was finally a burst. I was actually standing on a dock outside the Comfort Suites in New Bern, NC, listening to the sounds of several types of birds. I closed my eyes to listen, suggesting both that this noise was somehow significant, somehow meaningful, and that we hear such noise better with our eyes closed. I quickly jotted down the phrase “How can you be on this earth and not close your eyes on occasion to listen to the sounds of birds chattering their meaningful noise?” As I looked at that phrase, the idea of “meaningful noise” clicked with the idea that those purple flowers I had noticed months ago were also a sort of synaesthetic meaningful noise that I had “closed my eyes,” in this case to the routine obligations I was on my way to fulfill, to better perceive. So I put the two phrases together.

How can you be on this earth
and not close your eyes on occasion
to listen to the sounds of birds
chattering their meaningful noise?
Behind the finishing plant a field
is bursting open with purple flowers.

Then the shaping and refining begin, but the creating doesn’t stop either.

I liked those six lines, but I realized the third line was vague, so I brainstormed a list of birds whose songs I felt comfortable describing and added them to the poem.

How can you be on this earth
and not close your eyes on occasion
to listen to the sounds of birds
chattering their meaningful noise?
Laugh of crow,
annunciation of blue jay,
high-pitched twitter of chickadee,
moan of mourning dove.
Behind the finishing plant a field
is bursting open with purple flowers.

Again I liked it, but I knew it was too off-balance and I needed to add details to the flower image, so I closed my eyes to recall what I had seen in greater detail. I did another cluster listing out more detail than I knew I could use. Somehow the nature of the place I had seen those flowers (the contrast of humanity’s temporality next to the eternal beauty of nature) seemed important, so I chose those details and added them in.

How can you be on this earth
and not close your eyes on occasion
to listen to the sounds of birds
chattering their meaningful noise?
Laugh of crow,
annunciation of blue jay,
high-pitched twitter of chickadee,
moan of mourning dove.
Behind the finishing plant
off the run-down road
between failing furniture towns,
a field is bursting with purple flowers.

Again, I liked it, but reading it through I realized that the connection between the flowers and the birds was not apparent and that I hadn’t named the flowers. I knew immediately that I wanted to create the link by strengthening the suggestion of synaesthesia since that was how the two images seemed related in my head. I didn’t know what the flowers were, but I chose cosmos for the possibility of double meaning it involved. I added the last two lines.

How can you be on this earth
and not close your eyes on occasion
to listen to the sounds of birds
chattering their meaningful noise?
Laugh of crow,
annunciation of blue jay,
high-pitched twitter of chickadee,
moan of mourning dove.
Behind the finishing plant
off the run-down road
between failing furniture towns,
a field is bursting with purple flowers.
If you close your eyes
you can hear the cosmos blooming.

Once again, I liked it. And I kept it that way for a long time. In fact, it was published that way, but after seeing it in print, I realized I had my reader listening too much to the sound of birds rather than considering the act of listening, so I changed it one final time and because I added a line to take the focus a bit off the birds, I also had to sacrifice a line to retain the “shadow” of a sonnet in its structure. And finally, I decided making the final word “opening” rather than “blooming” would assist the double sense of “cosmos” in the poem. Here is the end result

All the Meaningful Noise
by Scott Owens

How can you be on this earth
and not close your eyes on occasion
and listen to leaves give voice to wind,
hear the laugh of crow,
annunciation of blue jay,
moan of mourning dove,
all the meaningful noise
of another spring day?

Behind the finishing plant
off the run-down road
between failing furniture towns,
a field is bursting with purple flowers.
If you close your eyes
you can hear the cosmos opening.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Poetry and the Internet


A recent visit to (an online database of publication outlets) revealed that there are at least 2000 journals actively publishing poetry today, nearly half of which are online journals. There are even poetry journals on YouTube and Twitter. A search for blogs about poetry turned up more than 3000 such blogs. And a statistical listing of 1000 of those blogs reported that the average one has 80 followers and several have in excess of 2000 followers.

That’s a lot of poetry, a lot of writing about poetry, and a lot of people reading about poetry.

And those numbers don’t tell the whole story either. I edit an online journal of poetry called Wild Goose Poetry Review. We have 250 subscriptions despite the fact that I tell people not to subscribe. I publish a new issue four times a year, but I post each poem individually so that readers can leave comments on single poems rather than on entire issues. As a result, when I put up a new issue, subscribers receive email notifications for each new poem and review. I encourage readers, instead of subscribing, to let me send them a single email when each new issue goes live. That way they only get 4 emails from the journal each year instead of 120+. There are 250 more people on that email list. So it’s safe to say that we have at least 500 regular readers.

But to understand just how many people read Wild Goose Poetry Review, you would need to know that the site averages 65 views and 15 visitors per day or about 25000 views by more than 7000 visitors per year. Of course, many of those are return visitors, but whether it’s 500 or 2500 distinct readers, that’s still a lot of time engaged with poetry.

All of these statistics lead one to wonder what this great quantity of interest in poetry on the internet means.

Firstly and most importantly, I think it shows just how much passion there is for poetry. Having done both, I can attest that it is much cheaper and easier to publish a poetry journal online than in print. The number of poetry journals has nearly doubled in the last few years not because the number of people interested in poetry has doubled (poetry book sales would contradict that idea), but because the number of people who can afford to publish a journal has greatly increased. Nevertheless, publishing a journal online still takes time, and the rapid increase of such journals is an indication of just how committed to poetry those who write, edit, and publish it are.

Secondly, the proliferation of poetry journals means that it is easier than ever for a poet to get published. Twice as many journals means twice as many poems, and with the encouragement that comes with almost any publication, more would-be poets will continue to write, submit, and presumably read poetry for a longer period of time. So, perhaps the number of people who maintain an interest in poetry will increase with the number of poets being published.

Online journals make it easier to get published not just in the sense of it being more likely, but also in the sense that the process of submission has become easier. Most journals, especially most online journals, accept submissions online, so there is no hassle with printing, stuffing envelopes, affixing stamps, and including SASEs for the return of unwanted manuscripts. Obviously, the online submission process is also cheaper. And the ease of electronic delivery to readers, editors, and poets means the process takes less time, so the turnaround time for submission-rejection-resubmission is shorter, and less discouraging, as well.

Thirdly, the increase in the number of people editing journals and submitting to journals means that there is even more diversity among the poetry getting published. At a recent conference I was on a panel with two other editors, and when we were asked what qualities we looked for in a successful submission, our answers were remarkably different, so much so between one of the other editors and myself that we seemed to give contradictory answers. Interestingly, despite that apparent difference in editorial preference, I have been published in his journal, and he has been published in mine. I wonder how many editors one would have to ask before getting the same answer.

Fourthly, internet publication makes it easier for a poem to be read. When a poem is published in an obscure 500-copy print journal from Montana, it will be read by the 500 people who subscribe to that journal. The poet has to hope that many of those 500 subscribers are libraries and that patrons of those libraries will read the journal and the poem. A poem published online is immediately accessible to anyone with internet access. It will be read by the 500 or so subscribers, many of whom will post links to it on their social media outlets, or email it to their friends, who may repeat the process. And, of course, anyone visiting the journal’s site or searching the internet for more work by the particular poet may see the poem for years to come.

Finally, for those learning about poetry or interested in developing their own poetic abilities, there is no longer any excuse for not reading a great deal of contemporary poetry. Students who used to rely on the “I don’t have enough money for a subscription” rationale can now find more poetry than they could ever possibly read for little or nothing online.

Of course, there are some unsettling consequences of the proliferation of poetry online as well. Many people are concerned that with more editors and more opportunities for publication, the quality of what is being published is significantly diluted. This may not be a significant concern long-term as the best poetry will find its way into the best anthologies and eventually into the classrooms and libraries where poetry outlives its author and any time-bound circumstances it grew out of. This, however, might be of little comfort to the poet who finds that with so much poetry available for free online, it is becoming increasingly difficult to actually sell a poem or even a book of poems.

Only one thing seems certain, for anyone interested in experiencing poetry, there has never before been so much of it available for so many at so little cost.