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Twice Bold Tale

by Neal Whitman, Poetry Prof

Something I love about poetry is being a member of a big family. In part, this is made possible by the Internet. Do you remember “pen pals” back in grade school? In the 4th grade I exchanged two or three letters with a boy my age in Brazil. Now I have “e-mail pals” –– one of them is Mary whose print-on-demand company is publishing an anthology of prose and poetry on domestic violence. I have a poem in it and she just let me know that my copy finally is soon on its way. It is important to this story to know that the contributing writers are not expected to buy their own copy. They get one free.

Mary is a sweet woman (and good writer to boot) and last month sent me a link to a free poetry contest. There was an online submission for one poem up to 21 lines and I entered. Two weeks later a letter arrived in the U.S. mail. I showed my wife the envelope and we both already knew what was in it: an invitation to buy a book with my poem. No, we are not clairvoyant. The “give away” was how the envelope was addressed. In the center, where normally the address goes, was this message:

Congratulations, Neal!
We have exciting news on the status of your poem
Seven Pleiades in the Garden
which you entered in our Free Poetry Contest…
Also an Exclusive 18th Anniversary Invitation

My name and address was below and to the right. Inside was one sheet, two-sided. On the front was a letter from Lavender Aurora, Poetry Editor, telling me that the judges loved my poem and already moved it into the semifinals where am in position to win a $1000.00 prize. She will let me know the results the minute the contest has been judged.

But, wait. There’s more!

They are publishing my poem in a book, Our Great Modern Poets: The Best Poetry of Our Time. Me! One of the modern greats!

But, wait. There’s even more!

They have commissioned “the great Shakespearean actor” John Campbell to record my poem as well. The book and CD retail for $39.90, but it’s mine for $19.95.

Lavender closes, “Keep up the good work, Neal. I believe in you!” I sniffed her letter, but, alas, no perfume scent.

On the back was the ordering info. Where I need to sign to give ‘em permission to print my poem I note that I also am placing my order. Oh, I see. No buy book, no print poem.

But, wait. There is more…much more!

They can add…

a dedication: $5.00
my photograph: $10.00
an illustration: $10.00
my biography: $10.00
per extra poem: $10.00 (21 lines or less)

You don’t think we are done, do you? Let’s really go to town. How about “enshrining” my poem on an elegant walnut-finished plaque under lucite for $39.00 or frame on parchment with their Official Gold Seal of Excellence for $15.00?

Finally, I just wondered what I would find if I googled the name Lavender Aurora –– this name sounds perfect for another industry that pervades the Internet. I did get one hit.

As you read there, this woman was asked by Lavender to join her list of “100 famous poets” with … here is a shocker … her 21-line poem! And, to come full circle, this story posted on a writer’s social network, the subject of last month’s Poetry Prof.

Posted in Features

7 Responses to “Twice Bold Tale”

  1. Neal, I love your no-nonsense approach to poetry publication. This post had me in stitches, but only because I can relate. I’ve worked with too many authors who got sucked into a (dare I say it?) scam like this. It’s sad. I hope your story will save at least one aspiring poet from throwing his or her money away on one of these books. Keep up the good posts!

  2. travis stafford says:

    I just recently received two letters. One from this Lavender Aurora and another from World Poetry Movement concerning my work and publishing it. So it’s a scam? Heart breaking in a way. Can anyone guide me to a legit contest?

  3. Neal Whitman says:

    Dear Travis,
    I dare not say what is legit and what is not. But, I can report that in October I got another letter from Ms. Lavender. The envelope announced, “Congratulations, Neal! Your poem has won Honorable Mention in our Free Poetry Contest.” Inside was a half-sheet size Certificate of Excellence printed on creamish stock with goldish print … and, of course, the same line-up of things I can purchase. The back of the C of E listed the Grand Prize, First Prize, Second Prize, and 47 Third Prize winners. For my category, “Honorable Mention,” it states, “There were poems in this contest that could have won a prize if there had been enough prizes to go around (so) our editors are presenting these poets with our coveted Certificate of Excellence though the orginal contest rules did not call for any Honorable Mentions to be awarded.
    TRAVIS, I WILL LET YOU COME TO YOUR OWN CONCLUSION.
    Amicus poeticae,
    Neal

  4. Tayla D. says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I just got the same letter and was excited to be noticed for something i’ve written but, ha! Everything you got I got. The only difference was our names. What led me to find your website was I was wondering more about John Campbell and couldn’t find anything about him but I am sure glad I found this. Thank you again!

  5. Neal Whitman says:

    Tayla,
    College / University literary journals and legitimate publishers of poetry books often hold annual contests with a reading fee to help support their ongoing publishing efforts. But, then they do not try to sell products to “winners.” I am suspicious of any business that has nothing you can find on the Internet except for their anthologies of “winning” poems which you might be able to suss out include every submission they get. A good sign also is a contest that announces the name of a final judge — in most cases this will be big name in the poetry world. In those contests, the organizers screen submissions and pass forward a set number of poems to that judge who, by the way, almost always is paid.
    Amicus poeticae,
    Neal

  6. MONICA SONNIER says:

    I RECEIVED THE SAME INFORMATION IN THE MAIL TODAY. LAVENDER AUROVA. SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE ABOUT THIS. NOT ONLY ARE THEY PLAYING WITH SOMEONE’S DREAMS AND ASPIRATIONS BUT MAKING A PROFIT AT IT! IT ENDS HERE. FORTUNATELY, I HAVEN’T SEN’T ANY MONEY BUT I WAS SO PROUD OF THIS “FAKE” I POSTED IT ON MY FACEBOOK FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO SEE. PUBLICLY HUMILIATED .

  7. Joe Glimp says:

    Glad to have come across this site when searching to see if Famous Poets was legit. Wondering how best to tell my teenage daughter that this is indeed a scam.

    Sad, the girl loves to write, but perhaps this is one of life’s lessons best learned early.

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