Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware
The ILP advertised free poetry contests in newspapers and magazines, with cash prizes for the finalists and publication in a hardbound anthology for finalists and semi-finalists. The contest wasn’t a real contest, however. Just about everyone who submitted a poem was declared a semi-finalist, and offered the “opportunity” to buy the anthology in which their work was to appear (with, of course, a discount for multiple purchases). If they stumped up for the anthology, they were bombarded by offers of other ways to spend money: yet more contests, their poems embossed on coffee mugs or enshrined on plaques, memberships in poets’ societies (which demanded $100 or more in annual dues), attendance at poetry conferences (which cost as much as $600, travel and hotel not included).
In 2009, the ILP finally went bust, and the Poetry.com domain was acquired by self-publishing service Lulu.com (I blogged about this when it happened). Lulu kept the functionality of the Poetry.com website–including the thousands of poems published by Poetry.com participants over the years–but discontinued the vanity anthologies and the merchandising aspects of the business.
Good news for poets–though of course there was no shortage of similar schemes to take the ILP’s place.
Now it appears that the Poetry.com domain has changed hands again. The new owner is a company called Newton Rhymes, LLC, which filed a trademark application for the Poetry.com name in January of this year. Virtually no information on Newton Rhymes turns up in a web search, other than the fact that it is a brand-new business based in Massachusetts and licensed in New York, which also owns a rather neglected-looking website called TRCornelius.com that advertises writing contests.
Former Poetry.com participants found out about the change via an email solicitation at the end of March, inviting them to “claim” their poems on the re-launched Poetry.com website and “share your message with the world!”
The new Poetry.com–which is already drawing participants–features a points and badges system, allowing poets to earn points for activities such as providing critiques and promoting Poetry.com on social media. Poets who amass 25,000 points earn an ugly pin. The poets who earn the most points for doing various things that boil down to promoting the site are promised an appearance on national TV (no details on when or where).
Though the junk mail-style tone of the solicitation email and the tacky look of the re-vamped website don’t bode well, membership in the new Poetry.com is free, and there’s no sign of the contests, anthologies, coffee mugs, or other cheesy methods by which the ILP extracted cash from poet-participants.
give us in any other way that personally identifies you…By submitting this
personally identifiable information to us you agree to receive email
and postal mail communication from us and our marketing partners.” In other words, anyone who signs up for the new Poetry.com website should expect to be solicited.
I’ll be keeping an eye on the new Poetry.com, and will update this post if anything changes.