The good news: You're a winner.
If you've been writing poetry for any length of time, there's a good chance that you've seen an ad for a "National Library of Poetry" contest with "$48,000 in prizes." Maybe you entered the contest and received a letter that began:
"It is my pleasure to inform you that after reading and discussing your poem, our Selection Committee has certified your poem as a semi-finalist in our Open Poetry Contest.Your poem will automatically be entered into the final competition held in Spring. As a semi-finalist, you have an excellent chance of winning one of 70 cash or gift prizes--you may even win the $1,000,000 Grand Prize..."
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Of course, there's one catch: to enjoy a lasting momento of your poetic accomplishment, you'll need to buy an anthology for $49.95. And if you want your biography included, it'll cost you another twenty bucks.
Is the contest legit?
Instead of answering this question directly, I'll quote Dennis M. Gauhan of The Plazma Freehold, since he's already done the math:
"NLP typically claims it will award $48,000 in prizes for a poetry contest. The subsequent volume sells for $49.99 and includes work by 3,000 people. If all of them buy in, then the NLP grosses $149,970 - subtract the $48,000 in prize money and they wind up with $101,970 before expenses....Even if we allow for roughly half of the gross purchase [for publishing costs], they could wind up with $74,970..."
A thorn by any other name.
To confuse matters further (or perhaps to create an illusion of legitimacy), the NLP's Web site lists five different "sponsors": The National Library of Poetry, the International Library of Poetry, the International Society of Poets, the International Poetry Hall of Fame, and Watermark Press. All of these "sponsors" have pages and e-mail addresses at the commercial Poetry.com Web site--a fact that suggests caveat emptor to cautious or skeptical poets.
Sometimes the truth hurts.
For a struggling poet, it can be painful to admit that a letter from a poetry contest or publisher is nothing more than a sales hustle. But what's worse: being honest with yourself or being the victim of a company that exploits the vanity of aspiring poets?
Copyright © 1996-2002 Durant Imboden. All rights reserved. Credits.