"... the Internet has even greater potential to expand the audience for poetry through ease of accessibility. The challenge now is to spread the word that so many literary sites exist. The two communities are united by their search for good poetry."

Walter Cummins, The Literary Review


Round Table participants:

Walter Cummins
The Literary Review

David Chester
Mississippi Review Web

Ruth Daigon
Former Editor
Poets On:

Jan Strever
Research and Reflections
Faculty advisor
Legends Magazine

Jamie Wasserman
Assistant Editor
Lite - Baltimore's Literary Newspaper Co-Founder
The Melic Review


Perihelion's Round Table discussions were developed to stimulate an ongoing discussion about Internet poetry publishing.

Do use our bbs to participate and help provide the focus for future discussions.

Ink on Your Fingers, Bytes on Your Brain

   An email assisted Round Table discussion
   hosted by Jennifer Ley

As poetry continues to proliferate on the Internet, one thing is clear:   most poets and editors still feel an incredible attachment to a world where we can weigh the weight of a book of poetry in our hands, feel the rough texture of paper beneath our fingers.

Are we being sentimental? Consider this imagined dialogue, penned (or should I say, typed?) by poet Peter Howard:

ANORAK: Those stone tablets are history, Ancient. You ought to be getting on board with the latest PAQ (Parchment and Quill) technology.

ANCIENT: It's just not the same. Parchment's flimsy, and you always have the uneasy feeling that it could be lost forever in a gust of wind or careless torch.

ANORAK: But it's so much faster. You can get up to two characters per second with this new quill. And cheaper. I could afford all the parchment I need, and produce a dozen copies of my odes in a matter of weeks using PAQ, and people could circulate them by hand instead of needing a horse and cart.

ANCIENT: Oh, I know all the advantages. But there's something tangible about stone, something permanent. Stone's part of the Earth, and it connects to the Earth. Parchment's just a bit of old sheep skin - it doesn't command the same respect. Tell me: if the Caliph commissioned a poem from you, and you wrote the best one of your life, how would you want it presented. Parchment or Stone?

ANORAK: Well...

As Peter so perfectly demonstrates, the print vs. Web debate can rapidly descend into a circular game of rock, paper, scissors ... megabytes. But as Perihelion's second Round Table discussion will show, the issue for poets today is not one in which the needs of the Web publishing community are at odds with that of print, but rather, how both worlds can, and do, enhance each other.

I'm honored to be able to introduce Perihelion's second Round Table discussion.

The Questions:

1. Please introduce yourself and your publication/publishing experience to our audience.

Walter Cummins I have been editor-in-chief of The Literary Review for 15 years. Now in its 41st year, TLR publishes quarterly, with many issues devoted to poetry and fiction in translation from specific nations or regions. I am also a member of the FDU Press editorial committee for evaluation of scholarly manuscripts, with occasional creative work in translation. The great majority of my own publications have been short stories in close to 60 magazines. I also have published story collections, novels, essays, and reviews and have edited several books.

Jan Strever: I've been editing literary magazines for over twenty years now. At present, I am the editor of Kimera, the faculty advisor for Legends Magazine, a literary magazine produced by students at Spokane Community College, and the editor of Research and Reflections--an educational electronic journal, published by the School of Education through Gonzaga University. My own work, poetry primarily, has been published in numerous lit mags, on and off line. I am also a teacher: creative writing, science fiction, literary editing and design, literature, as well as the more mundane first year college composition, which I teach both in the traditional classroom and through the Web.

Ruth Daigon: I edited Poets On: for 20 years. We published two issues a year, and were compulsive about getting them out on time ... Summer meant summer (June) and winter meant winter (January) and since we were also theme oriented there was a great deal of time spent in where and how we called for issues. We also had to pay attention to deadlines ... length of poems (Poets On: offered 48 pages of poetry, and toward the end of our tenure we were reading 2 and 3,000 poems per issue) and there were many choices to be made. We made them and learned a great deal about poetry in the process. Since I came to poetry through music (I was a professional singer for many years) and I was not an academic, the question of where the poems came from never arose ... but more of that later. My own work, poetry, has had a fairly wide circulation (Shenandoah, Poet& Critic, Kansas Quarterly, Poet Lore, Alaska Quarterly, Tikkum, Atlanta Review, etc.) I've won some national prizes (Anne Stamord, USC, The Eve of St. Agne, Negative Capability...) and have had a couple of poetry collections published (Papier-Mache Press) I am not a teacher in any academic institution but I have done workshops in prisons, factories, high schools, women's collectives, senior citizen groups ... and so I wasn't limited to traditional classrooms.

Jamie Wasserman: After graduating from Mary Washington College in 1996 and working with the small college presses there, I joined Lite, Baltimore's Literary Newspaper where I served as assistant editor. In May, 1998 I formed The Melic Review, along with CE Chaffin, and in late July, The Alsop Review invited me to become editor of their new monthly Octavo. The bulk of my publications are from on-line journals. I work as a technical writer for a government contractor so, though it's as painful a way to make a living as I can think of, I do earn my keep working with the press.

David Chester: I've been poetry editor for Mississippi Review Web for about a year and a half. I've been writing poetry for about 20 years, have been published in various journals, and am currently supporting my literary habit by practicing law in Florida.

2. Why did you decide to establish an Internet presence? How has having an Internet presence affected the administrative/managerial aspects of your publication?

Walter Cummins: TLR's Internet presence began several years ago at the invitation of Mike Neff of Web Del Sol. At the time, not many print literary magazines had Web sites, but now most of the established one do. Although we publish only selections from each issue on the Web, choosing and formatting takes some time. More is devoted to email exchanges with readers and writers. We devoted our Spring 1998 issue to a project we called Web chapbooks, with the printed issue including only part of the work by seven poets and four fiction writers we invited to participate. That required hundreds of hours preparation.

Jan Strever: Kimera was originally conceived as an online/print literary magazine. I think the best writing comes from extending boundaries, and when the horizons of the WWW beckoned, I answered the call. First it was with the online educational journal. While going online with R&R, I spent more hours than I care to remember researching attitudes and beliefs about online publications. I discovered many people dismissed online publications, regulating anything published on the Web as self-publication. Some had a 'wait and see' attitude. Yet, a few brave souls, visionaries, if you will, were busily taking care of the business of publishing. At the same I was blessed with an online writing group whose writing astounded me. The incongruency challenged me. Kimera was the answer: we strive to publish the finest writing sent to us, so that even the naysayers are silenced or at least muffled a bit.

After reading Walter's reply about the time spent on preparing for online publication, I had to laugh. I feel the opposite. Of course, I've just spent a dreadful two weeks preparing the latest hardcopy for the press, and just as I was to deliver it, I discovered another error; I had to bring it back for one more change before taking it in to be run. I will be glad to have it finished. I don't feel the same about the online edition, as I can always go in and change or update, so it remains vital and accessible. There is no third party between it and me.

Ruth Daigon: A few years ago, my friend Robert Sward took me by the ear an said "It's time you got a decent computer, and start exploring the electronic world." Only he said it far less gently. And so it began ... computers ... softwear ... programs ... and servers and that whole wide world. Within a month, I was hearing from New Zealand, South America, Europe ... I was astonished (and delighted) at the quick response, the publications, and the number and variety of readers I was reaching. On one afternoon, I heard from Chile (a chapbook invitation), from West Australia ( a folk rock recording artist wanted to use a poem he had spotted on the Web ... my head's still reeling) and Ariga in Israel had published everything I sent and wanted more.

Now it was a question of pushing myself to produce more. I used to write at a leisurely pace when we were publishing Poets On: ... But now there was no excuse for not spending the better part of the day writing. The more I wrote ... the more I wrote. It was like a roller coaster ride ... thrilling, ... exciting ... and good for the circulation (no pun intended).

Jamie Wasserman: Lite joined the Web community about a year ago. We were fortunate to have another assistant editor who was net savvy and our Web site was (and is) just a link from her home page. From the beginning, the Web site was maintained as a means to find Lite a broader audience. We do not accept email submissions or offer any kind of reader forums.

My decision to strike out on my own and create Melic with CE was simply because I liked the freedom. Lite subsists on grants and public donations. Typical cost for an issue is somewhere around $2000. That kind of money would keep Melic running, with contest money, for 10 years. No bureaucracy. No filling out government grant forms, forms for non-profit organizations, no hosting fundraisers, blah, blah. It's a kind of release from all the bureaucracies and has allowed me to not only interact more with my readers and contributors, but allows me to focus more on what's important-- the writing.

David Chester: The idea of Going Web was actually Rick Barthleme's and, in a word, I think the primary motivation was *fun*. As a writer, visual artist, and hardcore technophile, Rick had been handling the visual aspect of MR on his desktop PC for years. The decision to throw an issue on the Web (back when it was being surfed only by the pocket-protector set), was fueled, I think, by curiosity more than anything. When, almost immediately thereafter, torrents of positive feedback came rushing in, Rick seized the opportunity to cultivate a new audience for MR. As the volume of submissions exploded, he enlisted me to help with the poetry side.

3. What are the differences between the print community and the online poetry community in your estimation? What do they have in common?

Walter Cummins: From the number of electronic messages we receive, the online community is more responsive, at least in telling us that they liked a poem. Of course, given the newness of the online medium, the print community tends to be more traditional, in many cases ignorant of the technology and its possibilities. The online community appears to be more varied in numbers and background. While print readership/subscriptions have been stable over the years, the thousands of Web hits and the messages some readers send tell us that our online version reaches many more people throughout the world. And the Internet has even greater potential to expand the audience for poetry through ease of accessibility. The challenge now is to spread the word that so many literary sites exist. The two communities are united by their search for good poetry.

Jan Strever: Take it to the streets poets like Adrienne Rich and Whitman have been telling us for quite awhile, and when I think of online versus traditional, I feel that is exactly what is happening. People who pick up Kimera at the local bookstore tend to be writers themselves; however, those who access Kimera online cannot be classified so easily. We've had high school students, bank officers and computer geeks contact us about poems they happened upon and were touched by. When I was a young poet, the work of Diane Wakoski and Sylvia Plath opened vistas for me that I had not even envisioned. I would hope that is what all readers seek: a glimpse of the sublime.

Ruth Daigon: The difference I noticed between print and online readers is that, at this point, the print people are more demanding. Their taste is generally reflective and committed to specific schools of writing, and are, generally, poets either looking for publication or interested in what the opposition has to offer... The online readers don't protect themselves. They read, respond, and let you know what they feel almost immediately. There's no holding back. I receive mail from unexpected people and places. Because the whole area is so new, people let their guards down. They dash off an email message easier than they would a letter and less self-consciously. Walter said it well for all of us. The potential for expanding the audience is limitless, and we are so much more accessible to so many more people. To read a magazine, you have to buy it or subscribe to it or go and look in your local or college library or at the very least, borrow it or pinch it.. It takes time and money but on the Internet we do away with all that. You log on and go exploring. That's it. You get around more quickly and see more easily.

Jamie Wasserman: To pick up with what Ruth has said as far as the quickness-- I think the speed the Internet offers is its own double-edged sword. I've seen far more submissions from on-line sources rife with spelling errors, mistakes, etc. than I did with Lite. The fact that anyone can surf into a site and submit a poem in seconds is a scary thought. I can think of at least three emails I've gotten that began 'I just wrote this ...' To mail a submission forces you to at least think for a moment-- if only to address the envelope properly. But then, on the flip side, it's the speed I love. I've accepted poems in less than 24 hours and had them appear in an issue a week later. There's something to be said for instant gratification.

One thing that is encouraging is that there are more and more Web sites that are attracting established 'print' writers-- Blue Moon Review, Alsop Review, Slate, Jacket and Web del Sol come to mind quickly. In the introduction to the 1998 Best American Poetry Anthology, David Lehman promises that next year poems will be selected from on-line zines. That's encouraging. Established writers on the Internet means more careful readers and hopefully more careful writers. Maybe that will slow everything down a bit.

David Chester: The print community--those who submit to it and those who partake of it--seems to be predominantly populated by capital W Writers; by that I mean people who have the confidence, experience, or gall to refer to themselves as "Writers." Though it probably goes without saying, the online community is far more diverse. For some reason, people feel more insulated (or is it connected?) by the net's vast tangle of phone lines. Just like the people who would never dream of sharing their fetishistic tendencies with their significant other will race into a chat room to extoll the virtues of Feather Worship, people whose writing has been secreted in the drawers of their desks and nightstands seem to feel empowered by this "new" electronic medium; they would never dream of dropping their work in the mail, but will click on the SEND button without batting an eye. The result, for us at least, has been predictable: many more submissions, much more "raw" writing, and a few delightful gems amid the dross.

4. What factors determine whether you will publish a poem in print only, on the Web only, or in both media? Speaking as an editor and/or speaking as a poet?

Walter Cummins: These alternatives are pertinent only for our Web Chapbook issue, though we plan more individual chapbooks in the future. In other cases, work we put on the Web comes from our printed issues. With the chapbooks, we made judgments in two stages: first, we picked the best poems from the group submitted by each poet; then we chose what we considered the best of those for print. In a few instances, length mattered; a poem too long to fit into the printed issue found a home on the Web. Our method indicates a bias toward print, but I believe that is because page limitations and associated costs constrain our ability to publish good work.

Our selection process for the printed issues begins with preliminary reading by a few editors to narrow down a group of finalists. These are passed around to the full editorial staff, which meets to discuss these finalists and pick those to accept. Space considerations are always on our minds, and as a result many good poems have to be turned down. The virtually unlimited size of the Web site would allow these poems to reach an audience.

Speaking as an author, I've published fiction on the Web and even have three first-printed stories available via WDS. I've been pleased by the quality of the other writing that shares cyberspace with my work. And I've been struck by how easy it is to "distribute" copies to friends -- just passing on the URL.

Jan Strever: Now that we are receiving more submissions, 1,000, for the latest edition, we are forced to be more discriminating about what goes into the print versus the online edition. We are still shouldering the price of Kimera, so cost is an issue. When we accept work, we make it very clear that it can appear online OR in print OR both. When a poet objects to online publication, I return the manuscript as our vision includes both, so writers need to feel comfortable with our policies.

At present, submissions come into the central address--there they are screened to see if they seem to adhere to some of our vision, If the submission passes first muster, it is passed on to the editors who then spend quite a bit of time with it. Then it is passed on. When there are sufficient submissions for discussion, we meet and make the final decisions.

When I look for a market for my own poems, I look at the work it would be surrounded by, not whether it is hardcopy or online, though I do submit to both. I'm of Rich's school of thought, let's take it to the people. If I had more time, I might even hand out my poems on the street corners. So many people say, "What if someone steals my poem?" I'm sure I would be upset, but then again maybe not, I just might be complimented that someone went to such trouble ... At one time, I had such ego involvement with my work, but now I just want people to experience poetry, it doesn't matter whose. This does not mean I don't value copyright. Kimera is copyrighted, and if we found someone in copyright infringement, we would pursue the matter. However, I don't see much difference between copying a poem from a print magazine and one from an online zine. If a person is going to steal, the medium will not make a difference.

Ruth Daigon: Speaking as a poet, I don't consider one poem to be for the Web and another for print. I do a lot of research before I send my poems... read the back issues ... see other works of the authors that are published in the Emag I'm researching. See what editors I respect have to say about other magazines (the hot links can give you plenty of hot tips) I want my work to appear in what I consider to be good magazines together with other poets I respect.

The business of plagiarism is of interest because I had that happen to me along with a dozen other poets that appeared in a fine and respected magazine. I don't want to mention the name because I don' t want people to associate this mag with plagiarism. It can happen to anyone at any time. At first I was very upset and got in touch with the other poets, and there was a lot of email in everyone's box. Then, we started thinking about it seriously. What did it mean? Well, luckily, this thief had not sent our poems to any respectable publication. It was merely an email leaflet, so the question of suing never arose, and then, the whole thing struck us as funny because this fellow had stolen our work to impress his girlfriend and when she found out how and why, she dumped him. (As she ought to have!) AND THEN exposed him. That was an easy solution. But there is no way you can protect yourself. Not at this point.

Jamie Wasserman: Lite's on-line issues have always gone from print to Web . We may be the only publication whose print issues are actually AHEAD of our Web site!

David Chester: As a poet and an editor, I make no distinction between electronic and print media. A poem is a poem is a poem. As for what gets published where, we play things where they lie: if submitted via the net, it is considered for the Web site; if submitted via conventional mail, it is considered for the print version.

4a. For those of you who are fielding large numbers of submissions - could you please describe in a bit more detail how your selection process functions, how many people on staff are actually reading submissions, etc, etc. ?

Walter Cummins: At The Literary Review, the initial screening is done mainly by two editors, with a third sometimes participating. Those readers may reject submissions individually. Over the years, we have developed a sense of our tastes and can predict what the others will like or dislike. Therefore, the first readers have a good idea of which poems should go on to the next stage. Although the majority of submissions do not get past the first reading, any work those readers have questions about gets passed on. Then, in most cases, a second reader reviews the initial selections. Poems that two readers consider possibilities are considered finalists. These are reviewed at a meeting of a five-member editorial committee, where they are discussed and compared. We try to narrow acceptances down to the best of the finalists. For example, thirty poems may be discussed and only five or six accepted. We believe this process has improved the quality of TLR poetry. In the past, poems that readers liked initially were accepted on a rolling basis. But we have learned that initial enthusiasms don't always hold up. That is, reread a few weeks later, in the context of other work, a poem may not be as good as we first thought. Often, solid poems are rejected because we find others better. But that winnowing is our way of coping with space limitations.

Jamie Wasserman: Poems submitted to Lite are read by three assistant editors who pass what they like on to the editor. He has final say. With Octavo, I am the sole editor. I've made it a personal policy to respond to all submissions within a month (most within a week). A great poem or story is usually self-evident and that's what I'm looking for-- something where the words don't get in the way of the work, if that makes sense; something that speaks to me right away. Often is the case, one writer will send us several wonderful pieces. Then I defer to Jaimes Alsop for judgement.

David Chester: Every submission we receive is initially read by two editors. If either editor has strong negative feelings about a poem, it is rejected. If either has strong positive feelings about a poem, it moves on to the next stage. In the rare case in which one of the two editors has strong positive feelings and the other has strong negative feelings, the two editors discuss the poem and their reactions to it and come to a consensus about whether it should move on (with about half being rejected and half continuing through the process). The poems that make it past this stage are then sent to a third editor who makes the final decision about whether to include the poem, taking into consideration (for the first time in the process) thematic and space issues.

5. Do you consider a poem published in an online publication viable for literary credit when you look at biographies? Will you publish work in print that has appeared previously on the Internet?

Walter Cummins: Previous online publication should count just as much as print, depending on the reputation of the source and our assumptions about its standards. An equivalent range of quality exists both on screen and on paper. Of course, our decision about any given poem is based on that specific work. We try not to be swayed by previous credits and hope to discover new voices. Still, we expect that submissions by a poet with a track record will have a certain level of proficiency and deserve attention. Online is part of that record, and will become even more so in the future.

Jan Strever: Walter has stated it so well that I don't have much to add except as an aside. I am astounded at the credentials of some of the writers who submit to us. We don't read the "literary credit notes" until after we have accepted a piece for publication. We received submissions from writers who have numerous awards and hundreds of publications. This leads me to believe that the line between 'them and us' is disappearing. If established writers are willing to publish in our online magazine, then obviously we have arrived.

Jamie Wasserman: Hmmm, if I were to answer this one honestly I would say online publication, in my estimate, doesn't carry the same weight as an established print credit. The main reason is audience. We're talking the difference between an academic reader and the net world. That's not to say there aren't academics out there reading the journals on the net (and publishers and agents) but I think the difference would be akin to singing at the Kennedy Center or on the steps outside. That doesn't mean the quality isn't equal to (or in some cases surpasses) those lovely little magazines, but ask your local college press if he's heard of The Melic Review or Octavo and he'll probably scrunch his nose at you. I don't think word is out yet but we're getting there.

The print/Web publication issue concerns me more as a writer. The bulk of what I've written that I would consider sending out has already appeared online so I haven't sent them anywhere. I think a publication is a publication, whether it's Grandma's family collage or the New Yorker.

David Chester: From the standpoint of "literary credit," i.e., prestige, I wouldn't really draw a distinction between print and electronic media per se. That is, I would be likely to consider an online publication at The Atlantic's Web site more impressive than a print publication in Bubba's Backyard Handyman's Guide and Poetry Journal. However, when it comes to evaluating submissions, I couldn't care less about prior publications. I look at the work submitted, period. The only time I pay any attention to prior publications is when I'm putting a bio together. I have always considered the we-won't-publish-you-until-you've-been-published-elsewhere attitude to be a tremendous evil.

As for the issue of first rights, I consider the Web and print media as separate, i.e., there can be two "first" publications.

5a. Do you think we'll see a consensus evolve on the issue of first publication rights, or do you think the Web has created a situation where writers will need to be aware of each publication's policy regarding first rights? I know a growing number of poets feel that work that has appeared on a 'quality' electronic site has been published. But they would be cheered to see David's response, as it means they could resubmit their Web published work for print. Any further comments on this?

Walter Cummins: I agree with David that prior Web publication should not preclude a paper version. Several of the poets in our Web chapbook series have had acceptances for poems that appeared only online and not in our printed issue. With so many outlets for poetry, each with such a limited number of readers, it's unlikely that audiences will be overwhelmed by repetition. Paper does have a longer shelf life, especially for those magazines bound in permanent library collections. A good poem should be available to all the readers it deserves.

Jan Strever: The Web is such a strange and wondrous place that I hope we never agree upon what is right versus what is wrong. Chaos motivate ... Writers should actually read the policies of the magazine they are submitting to ...

Jamie Wasserman: Policy will probably always be magazine-specific. At any rate, it's always a good idea to familiarize yourself with a journal before submitting. My feeling again, is that a publication is a publication, no matter where it has appeared.

Ruth Daigon: I agree wholeheartedly with David. I feel there can and must be two "first" publications. We are all aware of the fact that no matter how prestigious a magazine may be, and how great the distribution may be , the number of readers are limited in comparison to the thousands of readers tuning in on the Net.

As I mentioned before, Emags are easily available to you, you simply go online and you have the whole world of poetry at your fingertips ... it doesn't cost much for many of us ... we don't have to send off checks and wait months for the mags to be delivered ... it's right there on the screen and the sky's the limit. Furthermore a good poem deserves to be read often and by as many readers as possible. Even if a poet subscribes to a great many magazines (and how many of us can afford unlimited subscriptions? ) we can never explore and familiarize ourselves with what's going on in the world of poetry because it's growing and expanding like my mother's overnight dough.

David Chester: My feeling is that a "if it's been published on the Web, it's been published" attitude would discourage many poets from submitting electronically (at least those, like me, with a fondness for the aesthetics of page-turning. As for a consensus, I doubt we'll see one. After all, print has been around for centuries and there remains disagreement on, for example, simultaneous submissions.

6. Some writers who do not have an academic background feel that academic or more prestigious literary journals will not seriously consider their submissions. Do you think this is a factor or not? On average, how many submissions do you/did you field per issue of your publication?

Walter Cummins: According to the cover letters, most of the poets submitting to TLR have academic backgrounds, whether MA or MFA degrees or teaching positions. That may be because TLR is one of the oldest literary quarterlies or because the editors, as academics, have a predisposition to like certain kinds of poems. And as graduate writing programs have proliferated, so has the number of poets they have produced. On the other hand, we are always eager to find good poems from poets who are not in this mold. Promising submissions from such people are given even more "serious" consideration.

According to our most recent calculation, we print only about 2 to 3 percent of the work submitted. Therefore, if an issue contains (say) 30 poems, they probably were chosen from about 800 to 1,000 possibilities.

Jan Strever: Each of us has a vision of what type of work we want in our magazines. For example, Kimera seek poets and fiction writers who carefully attend to the language. We tend not to be "message" oriented. I don't mean that we don't want "messages" in the poems we publish; instead, we want the craft to carry the message: as Pound and the Imagists remind us: the sound should echo the sense. In addition, we look for work that shows an awareness of our vast literary history. If a poet uses a device, such as not capitalizing or punctuating within a poem, there needs to be a darn good reason, as punctuation is a tool of the poet, not something to be discarded because a poet doesn't know where to place a comma.

However this does not mean a person has to be an academic. We have published quite a few writers who love to read and write poetry and who don't hold MFAs. Again attention to language is much more important than a degree ...

Ruth Daigon: I think this question is addressed to editors and I am no longer in their company but I do want to say that I thought we had disposed of this business of academic backgrounds etc.. Publications mean nothing. Prizes mean nothing. It's the immediate poem that counts. Who said what about you ... how you make a living ... or where you've been published can't make the poem a better poem or more acceptable, and if it does, I worry about the quality of a magazine. As a matter of fact, when we (at Poets On:) received poetry submissions with long prestigious credits, we very often leaned over backwards NOT to be impressed and adopted the attitude of "Okay! Show me!"

Jamie Wasserman: As far as on-line submissions, the bio is usually the last thing I'll get. Publications look pretty but I agree with Ruth, it's the poem that matters. There was a case where the New Yorker recently published a woman, who, after ten years of submissions was finally accepted coincidentally with the publication and success of her new novel. She took them to task for it. I guess if you're the New Yorker you've got a reputation to look out for. I know Lite has published everyone from Lyn Lifshin to David Kriebel ('who?' you say!).

As far as submissions, Lite sees several hundred an issue, accepts probably 10-15%. Melic generates a lot of their submissions from contests and invites a lot of the writers to appear. We probably don't get more than 20-25 poems a month and accept maybe 1 or 2 of those. Fortunately, we're only quarterly so there's no pressure to take poems simply to fill an issue. Octavo, whose first issue was just released in August, gets anywhere from 1-15 submissions a day. A lot of submissions means I can feel confident enough to wait with Octavo until something truly great comes in. I probably accept about 1-2% of poems and stories that come my way.

David Chester: As for the first part of the question, I think I addressed it in Question 3, above. As for the ratio of submissions to publications, I'd say we publish around 1-2% of what we receive.

7. Is the proliferation of poetry on the Internet helping or hurting your subscription base/publication sales? Are you reaching a new audience on the Internet?

Walter Cummins: As noted above, we are reaching a new and wider audience, a number of whom have subscribed via email. Some no doubt buy issues in local bookstores. All indications are that our Web presence helps, with no signs of negative results. The proliferation appears to be good for poets and for poetry publications. Audience development is central. The more readers, the more buyers/subscribers.

Jan Strever: Since we are a fairly new magazine, we are just now gaining a wide audience. However, from my knowledge of literary magazines, we have more readers than some lit mags will ever have unless they go online.

Jamie Wasserman: The Web has certainly given Lite a wider audience and we've had quite a few ex-Baltimoreans pick up subscriptions simply because they found us on the Web. I don't think there's 'competition' per say because of the number of sites out there. Different strokes for different folks. Every site has it's own character and style and everyone selects what they read based on that.

David Chester: Without question our audience has grown from electronic exposure while print sales have not suffered at all.

8. Have any of your publications (or personal work) taken advantage of the new hypertext writing or java application poetry that the Internet makes possible? Do you have any plans to explore including poetry like this in your publications in the future?

Walter Cummins: We don't have present plans. That's probably because we aren't up on the technology, but I expect that our perspectives will grow with the possibilities of the medium.

Ruth Daigon: I am not familiar with hypertext and java probably because I have so many avenues still to explore, and I generally tend to avoid word games and algorithmic techniques for generating language.

David Chester: I've not personally written anything that exploits these possibilities, nor have I received any submissions that did. We have no current plans to move in that direction--but, six years ago we had no plans to create an electronic version of our journal, so who knows. I suppose we'll go where the poetry takes us.

9. Please use this space to add additional comments, raise additional questions.

Walter Cummins: In just the past two weeks, I have heard about book-sized devices that will take downloads of full texts for convenient reading. Several are already on sale. More in the potential future are thin plastic pages with built in pixels that will receive electronic signals to create daily newspapers without the bother of delivery and paper recycling. As the technology develops the distinction between online and print that we have been discussing may become a non-issue. In the case of poetry, McLuhan won't apply: the medium will only serve the delivery of the poem. Think of all those thousands of poems in cyberspace easily available to millions of readers. The likely questions for future Round Tables may address the consequences of this ubiquity for poets and their readers.

Jan Strever: Recently I received a submission from a young poet--the work was sloppy, Kimera was misspelled, etc. His cover letter announced that he published over 500 poems in online zines, and he wanted to be published in ours. I had to chuckle even though I had been irritated when first reviewing the submission. When I first read his letter, tradition kicked in: Here was a brash, young writer daring to break through real or imagined barrier, yet he had not read our submission guidelines, nor bothered to look up how to spell our name. After a few moments, tradition left and I realized that the old ways will not always work on the Internet. The Netizens will not allow it. The Internet allows for possibilities not imagined in the old school. We are forging a new frontier here between editor and writer, with an immediacy never before experienced. This does not mean we must give up quality nor value. It does mean we need to be more accepting of those who share this space with us. It's that simple: there are online magazines willing to publish our brash young poet. Kimera serves another type. I often try to remember that both Dickinson and Whitman were not considered "good" poets while they lived. But today we still read and revere their work. Hmmm. I know, too, that something waits for us on the horizon. Can we allow for the possibilities? I hope so.

Ruth Daigon: I still have to resolve my feelings about the difference in E mags and print mags. I still like to hold a book in my hands ... read it in the bathtub or in bed, and it is hard and expensive to print out an entire magazine. Do you keep it in a folder? or bind it somehow? Perhaps the device Walter mentioned might be the solution, and if you 're leafing through a print mag and you want to refer back to another section, you just flip the pages back. On the screen, 16 lines or so are there staring at you. It's more difficult for me to grasp the entire poem when I'm confronted with sections of it. Is that why most poetry tends to be shorter on the Web.

And then there's always that damn AOL throwing you off the Net but that is my problem. I realize, I sound like a reactionary but I'm willing to learn, and I'd better since I've been in over 30 magazines in the last year and a half and have had chapbooks published both by Pares Cum Paribus University of Chile and Web Del Sol.

Jamie Wasserman: I agree with Ruth. Web will never replace print, but I don't think that's its goal. The Web is broadening audiences and making poetry more accessible. It's taking it out of the hands of academia. But there are a lot of growing pains. We're certainly at a point where magazines realize the value and need to be on the Web.

That's a big step. The next is opening the resources and exercising a tighter control over the medium. I know as writer that the World-Wide-Web is an invaluable resource. News articles, photographs, people are available at a click of the mouse. Information is there and waiting to be made into the next great American (global?) novel.

David Chester: Bottom line: the Web has created a situation where more people are reading poetry. In my mind, that's all that's really important.


Editor's note: But who is Peter Howard - author of that wonderful introductory dialogue? A poet I met through John Kinsella's excellent mailing list, poetry etc.

I hope you'll use the bbs on this site to participate in what we all hope will become an on-going discussion about the future of publishing poetry on the Internet. That forum is the best place to post your comments and suggestions - so that everyone in the internet poetry community can take place in the ensuing discussion.