Recently, I wrote to the Writers Digest competition to ask if a poem on my personal blog counts as published. Here is the reply.

“Anything that is online anywhere (blog, online literary journal, non-password protected message board, contest site) counts as published.”

This is the standard position of all contests, and poetry journals throughout the United States. I think it is ridiculous. First of all, unless you’re famous, most blogs gives very little traffic unless they are

search engine optimized, and most poets don’t know how to do this. At least I don’t think they do. Second, I honestly believe that most people who read my poetry on this blog probably would not have access to a poetry book that I published in my hometown. My readers are are from around the world. I get many visitors from China, and Russia, and numerous other countries. How would these people have access to a small poetry journal published in the US? I honestly don’t think they would, although maybe I’m wrong.

Third, publishing on a blog is qualitatively different from publishing in print. I can make numerous revisions to my poetry on my blog. It is definitely a work in progress. When you publish something in print, it is fixed, and unchangeable. I think it is unfair to say that if I publish a rough draft on my blog that counts the same as a final publication in print. Anything on a blog should be considered a work in progress since it can always be changed. I can even unpublish it if I want to do so. I certainly can’t make a print publication disappear! For me, publishing means creating a fixed and unalterable final version. That’s almost never the case with a piece that’s been published on a personal blog.

Fourth, the poetry establishment has a double standard. I’ll never be considered a published poet if I don’t get a poem published in a poetry magazine, however, they consider my poems on this blog to be published for the purposes of their journals, and contests. I feel it’s an incredibly unfair that there is a negative sense of being published, and a positive sense of being published. I’m not considered a published author as far as the poetry establishment is concerned, but the majority of my poems are not eligible for publication because they’ve already been published on the Internet. If they’ve already been published on the Internet, then I’m a published poet! Of course they don’t consider me to be published because I haven’t been published in one of their journals, but many more people have read my poems on this blog than would ever have read them had they been published in some little poetry magazine with a tiny circulation! In that sense, I’m much more of a published poet than the fancy poets will get published in the magazines, and win the poetry contests! I believe my poems have been read by many more people in many more countries around the world on this blog than many of the published poets that are supported by the traditional poetry establishment!

So basically, I have a choice to make do I want to be considered a real published poet, or do I want to reach the widest possible audience, and share my poetry with the world? I have been struggling with this question. My answer may change, but at the current moment I believe that I would much rather share my poetry with you, and with the rest of the world then spend hundreds of dollars on reader fees, only to be rejected countless times just so maybe one day I can get a poem published in the real poetry journal so I can say, “Yes yes yes, I am a real published poet.”

I am a published poet, and I am a published author because you’re reading this right now, and it’s published, and I am the author. The poetry establishment doesn’t want to recognize me as a real poet, well that’s their problem, not mine. Let them continue to turn up their nose at me! I may not be a real published poet, but far more people have read my work on this blog than most of the so-called real poets who get published in the print journals, and win the contests! Maybe I’ll keep trying to become a real published poet, I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet, but I certainly find the position of the poetry establishment to be practically medieval, and certainly behind the times. What really makes me upset is that I bet that most people cheat and published pieces that have already been on their personal blogs so all this stupid rule really does is penalize the few honest people will have chosen to abide by it. I believe it would be almost impossible to find a poem published on a personal blog unless for some reason it ranks very high on Google, and I don’t know why it would unless the author spent a lot of time doing search engine optimization which as I said before, I do not believe many poets would do. In any case, I would be interested in your thoughts on this issue. What do you think I should do?