Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Blogging poem drafts

I was talking with a poetry friend the other day about blogging, and the posting of poem drafts. It has always been my assumption (perhaps naive) that posting a poem draft on my blog does not by any means constitute publication. That I am still free to send the poem (when it is finished) out to print journals, or online journals. I read through the fine print of Blogger and Blogspot the other day, and it states that I hold the copyright to anything I post on the blog.

Do others have opinions on this? Does posting a poem on a blog make it "published?" (I think, of course not!). I suppose if there were any question, I could just delete any poem drafts from my blog, and they would be gone, and any links to them would become dead links, but I like having them in the archives. What do you who post poem drafts think about this issue?

(PS: it so so funny that the spellcheck suggestion for "blogging" is "flogging.")


Esther's Writing Works said...

Hi Peter

I post "finished" poems or drafts on my blog and consider them unpublished. I suspect that one of these days publishers will decide to include blogging in their submission guidelines (perhaps they have already); but I hope they do not prevail. I'm new to blogging, but now that I've gotten over my initial fears regarding public display (for the most part), I find the practice liberating. I do wonder if it's ok to post others' work on one's blog and how that works in terms of copyright. Thanks for posting this. Esther

barbara jane said...

hi peter, i blogged about this recently here: http://bjanepr.blog-city.com/blogpostpublish_question.htm

and also i wrote to an editor of one of the pubs which recently accepted my work for his opinion on blogging poems. he told me he'd accept them as 'not previously published' for he doesn't see the purpose of personal blogging/online personal journaling to be the same as submitting work to a print or online journal, nor is it the same as 'vanity publishing.'

i know the above sounds pretty subjective - i do know that when i am feeling unsure, some of my poems (in my blog archives) will 'disappear' once i work out a final draft and it gets accepted for publication (this last part was the advice of a friend of mine).

Steven D. Schroeder said...

I don't think it really counts as publication, and don't consider it as such for my journal. However, I know of journals whose guidelines say that any appearance whatsoever in electronic form disqualifies your work for consideration. I find this rule pissy and self-limiting, but then I suppose some journals will use any way, reasonable or unreasonable, to stem the tide of submissions.

steve mueske said...

This topic comes up from time to time. I don't think anyone really has the answer. As a matter of courtesy to editors, I think poems should be deleted from the blog once they are accepted, but that's my opinion. I keep a separate writing blog so that I can do that.

C. Dale said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter said...

Thanks all for your input.

It sounds like it is a fairly gray area. I think I may stop posting drafts of poems (though it is a heck of a lot of fun to do!). I see how a blog could be considered similar to a literary magazine in terms of overlap of readership (C Dale: I guess I won't be sending poems that I have previously blogged to you, at NER! LOL.). But I also see how it does not overlap, as well. I wonder what a poll of magazine editors would reveal? Hmmm.

Peter said...

Thanks Barbara for the link to your post about blogging/publishing. I am still so unclear about it. It's probably one of those things that will evolve and be transformed with time. The whole idea of what makes something "published" and who decides, who controls it, that is. (I tried to post to your blog, but it did not accept).

Anne said...

One of the things I like about Livejournal is that you can restrict individual posts to "friends only," which means only people with Livejournal accounts who you have added to your "friends list" can access them. I think posting a poem under those circumstances is pretty much like emailing it to a few friedns, which I don't think anyone counts as publication.

A public post that can be googled & read by anyone anywhere -- that seems like more of a gray area. I've posted some drafts on my blog, but I go a step further than the people who delete them when they've been accepted -- I delete mine before they ever get submitted. (And they usually get revised before they get submitted too.) Even so, if someone's guidelines specifically say "must not have appeared online in any form" or anything like that, I won't send previously-blogged poems to them. I figure I have enough poems to go around and if I don't, I should write more! *grin*

It's such a gray area, though. It's confusing.

Radish King said...

Fuck it. It's published if I say it is. My blog is private, no matter how many people read it. I only moved my poems to a secret location because I wanted to beat them with chains and whips and pieces of rubber hose. I'll continue to post poems as the whim strikes me, and yank them just as fast.

Kells said...

Hi Peter,

I agree with C. Dale on this (though I think Rebecca has the best attitude about it.)

I've seen a couple journals specifically say "anywhere online" which includes homepages and blogs.

I only post poems that have been previously published on my blog and never new poems or drafts.

I've always been cautious about things like this. Well, I've always been cautious about everything, so this just continues the gray shadow over my dull personality.

Take care and post hard. ;-)


Steven D. Schroeder said...

I'd like to ask a question of my own in response to this question from C. Dale:

"Why would editors want to publish work that anyone else can read or already has"

Why wouldn't editors want to publish a great poem that happened to appear first on someone's blog? Can they really make the argument that their magazine will be hurt in terms of quality, integrity, or circulation by such a move?

It doesn't matter to me personally, as I don't post poem drafts or works in progress to my blog. I just wonder how exactly such a rule will be policed, and whether the overall effect of such a policy isn't in fact negative.

Ivy said...

I guess editors want exclusivity on a poem, that is, they want to be the first to break the news, when they state 'must not have appeared anywhere else online'.

Esther's Writing Works said...

They probably need to familiarize themselves with a different world, one that exists in the 21st century. Esther

C. Dale said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steven D. Schroeder said...

C. Dale:

The copyright angle is one I hadn't considered, so thank you for bringing it up.

I also think at least some of the difference in our approach may come from the size of the journals we edit, which leaves you with a lot more to be concerned about in terms of audience.


steve mueske said...

To me, the whole posting-on-a-blog thing is about a poem that has not yet matured. It is still being worked on. It is not archived (or shouldn't be); the blog does not have an official ISSN, no membership in a professional organization, no grant funding. Is the criterion really only about audience? What about a poem that has been read to an audience before it is published? Is that "orally published?" What about emailed? Emailed to a specific list? It has been brought up that a poem is published when it is disseminated in a list. What if the list is entirely friends? Is there a number of the people on the list at which point it would stop being private? Under 25? What about workshops? Many workshops are not private -- meaning that membership is not required in order to view poems.

In short, I don't think it is quite so easy to draw the lines.

I realize that this is entirely arbitrary, but my definition of published is "not appearing in print, on a website, CD, or another journal" -- that is "official" publication sources. As a matter of courtesy, I would expect the poem to have been removed from a blog or public worklshop prior to being published.

(my 2.5 cents)

Laurel said...

If I write a poem for a friend's wedding and print up copies for the friend and her parents... is it published?

I say it isn't published (basically) until someone else publishes it. If I'ma ble to self-publish and be penalized, then I think I should be able to self-publish and get a teaching job too!

Suzanne said...

You consider poems on a CD published? Even without written words on liner notes? I always thought of CD's as more like readings.

I am still a little weirded out by how many hits my blog gets and I suppose I can thank site meter for that, but it's definitely made me shy away from posting drafts or new poems on my blog. Honestly, I think our blogs get a lot more readers than some lit journals, so I can understand why an editor would want an exclusive.

Interesting pov's over here, it's a lot like that old song, 'The times they are a changin'...'

Peter said...

This is quite a can of worms I have opened (or, re-opened, as the case may be . . . hehehe).

Good points all; it has really made me re-think what I post on my blog. And I may decide to delete some of the poem drafts I have posted (or not! hehehe)

Tony said...

As an editor, I don't consider blog posts to be "publication."

In fact, the lovely Laurel Snyder posted a poem on her blog last year and I asked for it for _The Canary_. It was a brilliant poem, and I'm always looking for fresh work.

I sometimes post drafts of poems on my own blog, but they are usually goofs, or very early drafts. Occasionally I'll post a "finished" poem or one that has been previously published. I'm not too worried about it.


Robert said...

I’d think that posting a poem on a blog is definitely publication. If six billion people on earth can at least theoretically see it if they’re near a computer, how can it not be publication? I don’t think that necessarily means that editors will not want to publish it, though, even if normally they don’t want previously published work. A magazine once accepted a poem of mine that had been published a long time before in another magazine with a very small circulation (I’d forgotten it had been published before when I submitted it again—I swear!). The editor said that was fine because the poem had not had a wide circulation. In other words, I really think it depends on the individual editor’s wishes. Given the growth of blogs and other online outlets, I’m sure a few editors (not all!) will “edit” some of their rules on previous publication.

Ginger Heatter said...

IMHO, it's probably best not to post drafts which closely resemble the final poems. Drafts can be deleted from one's blog, but not from Google's cache. I wouldn't want to publish something that's already been seen by any significant percent of potential readers. An editor has to have something on offer that's not available elsewhere, otherwise the whole venture is kind of meaningless.

For the readers' part, imagine paying $6-10 for a newstand issue of a journal, only to discover that you've already seen some of the work. As blogging grows in popularity, that could become "much of the work."

I hope that adds something to what you've already been thinking, Peter.


David Vincenti said...

I'm coming to the party late, and I've learned a lot from the dialog above. It's a difficult question to answer because (as has been pointed out above) editors have different standards, tastes, and requirements. However, I don't think there can be much debate over the medium: no presentation in a publicly accessible or archivable format can really be considered private. Whether or not that matters to an individual editor is a different question.

Laurel said...

Tony... you mkae me blush. I think you're lovely too!

Seth Abramson said...


As someone who spent years work-shopping in on-line venues--and who owes much of his development as a writer to the fine poets at those venues--I can't see myself condoning any viewpoint which makes on-line education in the field of poetry a virtual (no pun intended) impossibility. I think the "posting-of-drafts-online-means-publication" theory closes out the best avenue for young poets to hone their writing skills and learn the craft of poetry, to wit: on-line, communal work-shopping; have we helped or hindered poetry in America if we terrify younger writers (particularly in out-of-the-way, non-urban locales, where poets find themselves bereft of a "community" to belong to) out of seeking professional/semi-professional guidance from fellow poets in on-line workshops? ["To workshop I must sacrifice my viability as a publishing poet!" they would cry, and rightly so: on-line workshopping would become the bane of the ambitious poet, and would consign all the more such workshopping to the fringes of the vanity/amateur-hour poetic cabal. Sure, eschewing on-line workshopping is fine for those who live in cities, or who already have sufficient credits to their name to winnow their workshopping community to only close, personal friends, but what about the other 90% of poets? I'll admit on-line work-shopping only takes a poet so far--talent, perseverence, and lonely study of the craft is also required--but why cut a young suburban/rural poet's "leg up" out from under him/her?].

That said, I agree that journals should be publishing poems which are not currently available elsewhere, and which have never been available elsewhere in their final, non-draft form/format. The simple solution is to delete any poems from your blog at the time you first send them out to prospective publishers; if those publishers decide to fault you for ever having put those poems out in the mainstream for comment, even in draft form--for after all, what is the difference between posting a draft of a poem on a blog for critique and comment and doing the same thing in an on-line workshop--then I would think you well within your rights to avoid that journal (both as a submitter and a reader) altogether. There are enough journals out there that those whose editorial policies make the development of fresh poetic talent--and the encouragement of interest in poetry among the next generation--markedly less likely are making, I think, their own bed, and can't really be mourned, given that fact.

But I'll admit this is a tough issue to tackle, and I can't say that I find any particular opinion on the subject appalling or crass or entirely poorly-conceived, even if I do consider some of them conspicuously unwise, and even detrimental to the dissemination of poetry--and to the dispersement of interest in poetry--in America.


Peter said...

Seth: Well-put. I had not thought of this angle, especially regarding the needs of younger writers in small communities.