The Democratization of Poetry

The Magna Carta

One of my poems, “Recipe for the Broken“, is a finalist for inclusion in the Goodreads July newsletter. The newsletter is sent by email to over two million members of this social networking website for book lovers. As far as I know, that is a far greater circulation than even the most popular literary journals in print can boast. Apart from the exciting opportunity to reach a wider audience, I also decided to submit a poem as a kind of participant-observer in my ongoing informal research into alternative modes of publishing.

The contest goes like this: poets submit a single poem on the website, and from scores of submissions an editorial team picks six finalists to go on to a round of open voting. You can read the finalist poems for this month here and vote here. You need to be a member of Goodreads and also the ¡POETRY! group on Goodreads in order to vote. Voting ends, in this case, at midnight on July 2nd. Only the first-place poem is published in the email newsletter.

This is one example of the ongoing democratization of poetry — not only because it involves voting, but because it involves more generally the dissolution of intermediaries between author and reader. Laura Miller has a compelling argument for why similar trends, like the rise of self-publishing, are not necessarily such a good thing. As the intermediary “gatekeepers” — editors and publishers — are increasingly circumvented, the burden of discovering good writing shifts to the already overwhelmed and distracted reader.
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