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09:37 am: Unpaid Creative Work for a Multinational Corporation, Anyone?
With great displeasure, I've received a call for submissions to Ito En Ltd's Haiku Project.

Basically, the idea is that you send them "positive" haiku, and they put them on tea-bottle labels. Oh, and you give up rights to the work and permission to use your name. That's right. You can provide packaging content and endorsement for a commercial product, and it won't cost them squat!

It is understandable, if regrettable, that literary journals with little or no funding may not be able to pay contributors (Mobius: A Journal of Social Change, for which I am Poetry Editor, is so far from being in a position to do so that it has recently become online-only). But for a corporation to invite poets to provide its advertising gratis is contemptible. I e-mailed them the message below, and encourage other poets to do likewise--there are a whole bunch of corporate e-mail addresses on Ito En's Contact Us page.

I can't begin to tell you how offensive I think it is that ITO EN, a for-profit company would solicit poems to enhance a product without compensating the authors in any way. Beats having to pay advertising copywriters, doesn't it?

This "honors" poets in the same way that a corporate logo on a t-shirt honors the wearer.

Nor is this a "literary" venture: modern haiku rarely follows the archaic 5-7-5 syllabic pattern, making it unlikely that reputable poets with literary credentials are involved in the selection, making this worthless even as a publication credit.

Sadly, there are enough fledgling poets desperate to be published that you will doubtless obtain a superfluity of cheesy 5-7-5 haiku.

I shall certainly make a point of boycotting your products. Your "Haiku Project" is predatory and devalues poetry.


[User Picture]
Date:March 29th, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC)
I love the way you sock it to these guys.
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