Omnidawn, New American Writing, SUMMER!!!


so if you haven’t yet checked out the OMNIDAWN BLOG, go now. there is a current game up and the winner gets a free omnidawn book of their choice!!!

there are also some new installations of the Poetry Feature and the Video Feature.


speaking of Omnidawn, the editors took the whole omnidawn team out to dinner tonight at a restaurant in Berkeley. there are six of us in total…and it’s always a pleasure breaking bread with the crew. the craziest thing was that when we left the restaurant, guess who was leaving at the same time? you guessed it, Robert Hass and Lyn Hejinian! we chatted with them outside for a bit–i just love the bay area cuz you never know what poets you’ll randomly bump into.


speaking of the bay area, check out the new New American Writing, edited by Paul Hoover & Maxine Chernoff:

New American Writing 26 (2008) is now available. The issue has an Enrique Chagoya cover, attached, and work by sixty poets: Keith Waldrop, Rosmarie Waldrop, Sylvia Legris, Steve McCaffery, Karen Mac Cormack, Norma Cole, John Kinsella, Gillian Conoley, Clayton Eshleman, Nathaniel Tarn, Claudia Keelan, Donald Revell, Karen Volkman, John Tranter, Ron Padgett, Bill Berkson, Noah Eli Gordon, Liz Waldner, Martine Bellen, Ed Smallfield, Laura Kasischke, Joseph Lease, John Gallaher, Craig Santos Perez, Noelle Kocot, Donna de la Perriere, Kismet Al-Hussaini, Jordan Davis, Mark DuCharme, Molly Albracht, Stephen Vincent, Sarah Gridley, G.C. Waldrep and many others.

$15 for one issue or $36 for a 3-year subscription. Available from NAW, 369 Molino Avenue, Mill Valley CA 94941, and at better bookstores. If you wish to order copies or obtain a subscription using your credit card, go to our website,


my last day of class is tomorrow! although i’m happy to FINALLY be on vacation, i will miss my students ;(



“So, if you’re a poet who’s never published a book, and (like most poets) you don’t have hundreds and hundreds of dollars of available cash to spend on book contests, and you’re not friendly enough with a book publisher currently to have him/her solicit your work for publication, you can rest easy knowing that 2% of U.S. independent poetry publishers are ready, willing, and able to assist you.”

wow, all my idyllic dreams about the independent poetry world have been shattered!!! you mean i cant just write my poems and freely send them to anyone i want and expect editors / publishers to publish my amazing work without entering a contest or knowing them personally!!! i’m outraged!!!

seriously tho, in abramson’s post there’s an undertone of SELFISHNESS that is somewhat annoying. working (for free) for an independent press and running one (tho on a much smaller scale) myself (funded out of my own pocket), i know that this work requires a certain amount of selflessness. the editors at omnidawn and achiote press work very hard (and spend lots of money) to publish and promote OTHER people’s work. this is true for 99% of independent presses. why should a poet, who expects the small press (and by small press, i mean individuals) to pay for publication and distribution, not expect to contribute financially to that press’ success? i have no problem with independent presses running contests to fund publication…i happily submitted to a contest for my first book. i paid 25$. i didn’t win, but i was happy to know that my money went to supporting the press.


this year i entered a poetry contest held by a journal (one of those that accepts 3-5 poems). i paid 10$. i didnt win. but i really like the journal and was happy to know my money went to support the journal.

poets need to be less selfish and know they need to contribute also. yeah, i hear sad stories about how poets spends 100s of dollars on contests and never win. tell me, how much do you think editors of independent presses have paid to publish other peoples work?



8 thoughts on “Omnidawn, New American Writing, SUMMER!!!

  1. Hey there C.S.,

    Just to say one or two things about my background, so you know where I’m coming from (I think you might have read one or two things into the post I didn’t intend): I worked for a non-profit press for four years in college, was poetry editor of a small, non-profit literary journal for two years, am publishing my first book with a small, independent non-profit press, and despite holding numerous jobs since I became eligible to work at 16 have never worked for a for-profit organization (I’ve worked for a religious organization, a non-profit day camp for kids, a non-profit press, a non-profit university English department, and three non-profit public defender organizations [for a total of eight years]). I’m as familiar with anyone with how hard–and how thankless–non-profit work is, which is why I tried to emphasize in my post that it’s not a criticism of small, independent publishers (or their staffs) to note something empirically true, which is that such presses tend to not have the resources to handle unsolicited submissions.

    I just pointed out, then, as an ancillary point to that one, that young poets who don’t know enough other writers to find themselves in a situation to be solicited are largely SOL in that situation. To the extent, then, that pushes young poets without a first book into the contest system, I pointed out that a) that’s a system many of us, as past and present supporters and staffers of non-profit small presses have, ironically, criticized (for many reasons, including the question raised by Ron Silliman of the quality of work such contests engender in the publishing world), and b) that given the stiff competition in such contests (700+ entrants for most, with one winner), one would tend to advise a young poet, were one advising one, to submit to as many as possible.

    It’s simple fact that, assuming one has a publishable manuscript in the first instance, submitting to more contests rather than fewer is wise. Submitting to one contest a year is, I think, unrealistic–and in any event sends the message to young writers that their older, bookless peers with more resources will have a better chance of placing (say) an equally good manuscript due to their enhanced financial resources. I don’t think any of us like the idea of money factoring into which manuscripts get published, do we? I mean, if we did, wouldn’t you and I be for-profit boosters rather than non-profit boosters?

    I think it’s unfair to frame this as a question of young poets “supporting” the presses they want to publish with; I don’t know the poets you know, of course, but the poets I know would be perfectly happy to support all sorts of presses but don’t have the money to do so. I’m talking about, for instance, incredibly talented MFA students and recent MFA grads who rides bikes instead of cars, never eat out, buy their clothes at consignment stores, and generally deny themselves many or all pleasures because of lack of money. To say these people are selfish is, frankly, to suggest you’re not thinking of the same group of people I am. Because, having spent almost my entire life working around and with and for poor people, I just don’t think selfishness has anything whatsoever to do with it.

    And for the record, purchasing books of poetry–including from small presses–is probably my largest annual expenditure after rent, gas, and car insurance (I don’t even have many clothes, and never buy them for myself), so before you get personal and assume you know things about me and how I think I wish you’d ask for more information, first.

    Best wishes to you,

    Be well,

  2. Hey Craig, so I read Seth Abramson’s post and didn’t think of it as “selfishness.” Rather, I am thinking that if a poet isn’t already “in” the industry, via journals, colleagues and other professional connections to editors and presses, then said poet would have a hell of a hard time finding the way in.

    I don’t know if poets who aren’t in the industry, who perhaps see themselves in power dynamic as completely ass out (and I think rightfully so) can conceive of the relationship you’ve underscored above – about poets supporting small presses, that small presses are reliant upon this support, that small presses are oftentimes one person with a plan.

    I DO agree with you that poets do need to support small presses. I also very much agree with you on not spending 100’s of $’s on contests. Back to the conversation we are all always having about why the contest route is so shoved down our throats as the only way in and best, most prestigious way in as a yet-to-publish-a-book poet, and that we as poets, authors, and prospective independent publishers ourselves, have to somehow dismantle its over-pervasiveness.

    Lastly, I do agree with Seth re: those older poets who bitch and moan about there being too many poets, too many small presses, etc. I think it’s an elitist standpoint.

  3. hey seth,

    you know i do follow your blog (i’ve commented on it before) so i’m very aware (and i admire) your background and all your work (great poem in NAW by the by).

    and i understand that you were just pointing out an empirical truth to debunk a certain myth about the small press world, but anyone who believes the myth (of openness, etc) is a fool.

    what i find selfish is not you personally, but the implicit idea of contests as solely a way to get published and the implicit idea of a poet who thinks small presses should shoulder the entire financial burden of publication (again, not you, but the idea of the poet whom you are standing up for, whether or not they ride bikes to their MFA classes).

    what i mean is that the perception of the small press contest as merely a means to publish one’s manuscript is selfish. that’s just one aspect of the contest; the other is that it’s a way to support the press. we must take both into account.

    and i think you are giving your friend bad advice. don’t enter as many contests as possible, enter a small amount–hopefully with a press that your friend’s work might mesh with, and hopefully with a judge that might connect with your friend’s work. if your aim was to research ways to help your friend, that’s what you should have been looking for. i bet if you did that, you would only find like 2 contests in any given year that would be viable for your friend to submit to.

    if you think the more contests you enter the better chance you have of winning, then you have been blinded by mere numbers. it doesnt matter how many you enter, it matters which ones you enter and who the judges are.

    again, nothing personal (i respect you very much), just questioning some of the ideas i saw in your post 😉


  4. hey barbara,

    yeah, i def agree that poets without some kind of connection will have a difficult time getting in–especially since (as seth points out and as is common knowledge) the small press world is quite small with tight knits.

    but i often think that’s why contests are good: you support the press and have a chance to be published. it’s a way to introduce yourself to complete strangers and a way to keep a press going.

    as for the pervasiveness of contests, the only remedy it seems is for small press to receive grants/funding/etc–since it is usually just a person(s) with a plan. or that the editor is independently wealthy. or, go POD.

    sadly, these are narrow doors. and sadly, i feel like i (my work) will never win a contest so i’m forced to find other narrow doors.

    yeah, no more bitching and moaning!


  5. Hi C.S.,

    I disagree with some of what you’ve said, but I do very much appreciate the clarification. I think there are no easy answers here, and valid arguments to be made on all sides of the question. I tend to think the most important thing, always, is just to have the conversation in the first place, so that the many excellent perspectives can be heard and bandied about. In that sense, I definitely think we’ve accomplished something(!) Take care,


  6. With the money saved from not entering multiple grad-student-filtered contests, is it not possible to begin a website (12$ a year hosting services), or start a humble reading series in a local bookshop where you might hang out and like the owners, or fund a small DIY chapbook press, or put up some A4 flyers for poetry performances in a free university room, or scrimp and save and in a year or so self-publish an extraordinary first book made with personal care and beauty (cf. Jessica Smith’s).

    It’s interesting, Seth, and a very useful conversation. But I’m with Craig on this one.


  7. Hi Nicholas,

    I think there are many ways to get to the same goal, and I’m not necessarily any more enamored with the contest system than I am any other–either unsolicited submissions, self-publication, or networking-based publication. The key, to my mind, is simply for all options to be “options”–for it not to be a mandate that a poet must choose any one path, simply because none of the others are actually feasible. Likewise, I think there’s the “public discourse” angle: if we’re going to constantly talk about the state of American poetry, we also need to be aware of/conversant with how poetry comes to market (how it actually does, however we might wish it). From my end, at least, simply having discussions about methods is a lot more important than privileging any one method over another. That said, I’ll always prefer a mediated process–one involving an editor–to self-publishing, because in the same way doctors can’t be their own doctor, and attorneys (as I learned first-hand) can’t be their own attorney, poets are not, I don’t believe, capable of operating in a total vacuum as their own editors. The reason these scenarios are inadvisable is the same in each instance: because emotion and bias intrudes upon professionalism and weakens the finally product substantially. Jessica’s done some excellent work, but as we can’t compare what the work would look like with a dedicated editor on-board, it’s really impossible to know whether her writing is a case study in favor of, or against, the wholly legitimate points you’ve made.

    Be well,

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