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:
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.