Letters To The Editor For January 26th

~Death by Poetry~

I loved the article that mentioned Death By Poetry. I’m also a suicide survivor. I didn’t just attempt suicide once but many times. Finally, a few years ago, I was put on Zoloft, an anti-depression medication, and a couple of anti-anxiety medications, and am now doing good. In December, I published my fourteenth book. I’m currently reading for Poets Against Suicide. Payment is a percentage of the royalties. The anthology guidelines are on my Freaky Frights link.

Larry Sells
Freaky Frights https://www.freakyfrights.net
My books https://www.freakyfrights.net/frreaky_frights_000013.htm
My site https://www.geocities.com/nightwriter60/
My on-line bookstore https://www.lulu.com/deathwalk

~More on Poetry Article~

Dear Angela:

I read Behlor Santi’s article in last week’s issue with much interest, and some worry. Santi addresses many compelling issues but I was concerned to see them conflated (and in certain respects shortchanged): the challenges of rejection; the ways in which many professional writers support themselves as both writers and teachers of writing; contest fees; and contest judging, among them. For the purposes of these comments–and recalling the article’s title–I’ll focus only on some concerns with Santi’s points about poetry contests.

For starters, it’s important to remember that one can find contests that don’t charge any entry or submission fees. Unfortunately, Santi’s readers don’t learn about any of these opportunities. Instead we’re told that “Each competition charges an average of $20 per manuscript….” Since no-cost contests do exist (again, without charging writers any fees for submitting manuscripts) Santi might at least have acknowledged them. (For just one example, readers might look into New Rivers Press’s MVP Project competition. Check for updated 2005 guidelines at https://www.newriverspress.com.)

Santi also expresses doubts about contest judges’ fairness: “Of course that judge may very well prefer to pick winners from his own MFA program or workshops.” Possible, and yet according to some guidelines current and former students of a contest judge are simply not eligible to submit their manuscripts for consideration. Again, interested reader-writers can read on and consult, as one example, Sarabande Press’s Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry.

Some of my concerns with Santi’s article will be assuaged should readers check the Poets & Writers article Santi herself alludes to (for reference, The Culture of Competition, by James Waller, can be read in its entirety online at ). Although Santi claims that The Culture of Competition reveals contest administrators “admitt[ing] to depending on the checks of bad poets,” a closer look at the full text offers several other impressions.

For example: “After talking with upward of 20 people involved in some way with literary competitions,” Waller writes, “I have concluded that no one–not the administrators, not the judges or screeners, not the prizewinners–is getting rich.” Waller also shares this “comforting, if unexciting conclusion: that first-book poetry contests are, in fact, run pretty fairly.”

But given Santi’s general push away from poetry contests what may be most important to note is Waller’s statement, early in that very same article that Santi herself has referenced, that “winning a prize has become the surest among the fewer and fewer routes to publishing a first book of poetry.” However Santi’s article may try to dismiss it, this point is one that many practicing poets and writers acknowledge.


Erika Dreifus
Ed.M., M.F.A., Ph.D.
Editor, The Practicing Writer

~When Interview Seekers Don’t Respond~

Hi Angela,

I just wanted to offer your readers a helpful hint on the whole interview request thing.

If I see an interview request that I can contribute to, I just send a brief email (if they provide it) with the subject in the heading and a note that reads, “happy to help” with my contact information. That’s it. Works with posts, too.

I don’t spend a lot of time providing the information up front because (a) I might go in a completely different direction than the writer needs and (b) spam filters might send my efforts off into email purgatory.

Usually the person emails me with a questionnaire attached and a thank you. If they don’t, I have only wasted two seconds.