fibitz (fibitz) wrote,

Cultural Isolation

I attribute the public decline in appreciation of poetry in the U.S. mainly to one phenomenon: the academization of poetry journals. The rise in MFA—to say nothing of Ph.D.—creative writing programs has created a cottage industry of academic literary journals that generally do not pay their contributors and do not market outside academia—or at all. Lit mags that have to support themselves, i.e., that are not funded by colleges or universities, take a keen interest in marketing their product (or at least in soliciting donations); academic journals have no such impetus. While catering to public tastes is by no means perfectly congruent with distributing quality work, neither is focusing entirely on whatever passes for the avant-garde in the current school year. And by excluding the general public from any possibility of appreciating or accessing the work, the field becomes ever more narrow, parochial, and underfunded.

A case in point is SLAB magazine, produced by Slippery Rock University. I went to the site to check current contest guidelines (last year's deadline was December 8). I was astounded to find that although SLAB is a print journal, and gives no indication of having become web-only (especially since its current issue Table of Contents does not link to the works listed), there is no subscription information whatsoever. Nor is there any method on the site by which one might obtain a sample copy (I happen to have a past issue from entering a previous contest). Nor is there any indication that contributors or entrants will receive an issue, and—best of all—there is no e-mail contact provided to inquire about these details. Apparently it isn't necessary to have anyone actually read the journal anymore, even within academia—and apparently none of the contributors care that no one else will ever see their work, assuming that agitating would have rectified the situation. I look forward to the next step, when one submits only in the hope of being on a list of those found good enough to be published—if there were an actual publication.

And, of course, if nobody reads it, it doesn't matter if it's any good.
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