October 21st, 2007


Mouth where the money isn't

The CLMP Code of Ethics was touted as a major step forward in spiffing up the standards of poetry contests, but, as I've mentioned elsewhere (see article in 2008 Poet's Market), it has no teeth. "Transparency" means "We can do what we want as long as we state what we're doing"—in other words, continuing to hire judges whose relationships with entrants are on otheir own recognizance, not naming the judge at all, and other—what I consider—irregularities.

The most risible instances, however, are the contests who prominently display the CLMP code on their site—and then fail to indicate the judging process at all; i.e., non-transparency. It's sort of Bush admin, don't you think? To make a statement, or give a policy a title, and then engage in actions that directly contradict it.

I've found that many of these folks will divulge the judge's name, and a description of the preliminary selection process, if you ask 'em—but surely "transparency" means stating your process right up front? The CLMP code has gone from toothless to meaningless, if you ask me.

I encourage poets to bombard contests with e-mails if the judge is not named and a notification date is not given. I strongly encourage poets to boycott contests where the entry fee exceeds more than 2% of the prize value. While high entry fee:prize ratios used to be the distinguishing characteristic of local poetry societies and other bottom-feeders, there is a distressing trend toward high entry fees and small prizes—or no prize other than publication—in contests sponsored by formerly-reputable entities.