Fencing with Foetry Librarian


Amanda French writes "An article in the June 3 issue of the Chronicle calls librarian Alan Cordle's Foetry "reprehensible" and says that the site's accusations of fixing and favoritism in poetry contests are "leveled carelessly and with no acceptable standards of proof; its methods are wrongheaded and dangerous."

Cordle responds by pointing our that the authors of the Chronicle article (who are associated with the Virginia Quarterly Review) conclude by calling for poetry contest guidelines--as members of the Foetry community have been doing for months.

The book blog mobylives.com has also give pixels to the controversy in a guest column by the then-anonymous Cordle and a faux-noir column a clef in which a famous poet begs a gumshoe to kill "The Librarian." The gumshoe refuses because "it would only get all the other librarians riled up.""


Now that I have been "outed," I'd like to call on my fellow librarians to help with the cause. Because certain publishers are actively engaging in fraud, I suggest that we boycott presses until they implement ethical guidelines for their contests, like the ones listed here:

  • The current judge's name is to be announced in advance.
  • Friends, family, former or current students as well as colleagues or former colleagues of the judge are not eligible to enter.
  • Graduates, current and former employees of the host institution/press are ineligible.
  • Manuscripts are to be read "blind," that is without the author's name attached, nor should manuscripts include a biographical statement.
  • Manuscripts should not include a page acknowledging individual poems previously published, as this creates bias.
  • Screeners who recognize the work of an entrant may allow another screener, who has absolutely no connection to the manuscript, to determine suitability for inclusion in the final pool to be forwarded to the judge.
  • Screeners and finalists should be named at the close of the contest.
  • Under no circumstances may a judge or screener collude with another person in any way that will allow recognition of a certain poet's work -- i.e. no one may forward to the judge the name of a person, poem, or manuscript for the purpose of identification in the finalist pool.
  • A judge must select a winning manuscript; if s/he chooses not to, another judge should be appointed who is willing to make a choice, or all entry fees should be returned.
  • Any entrant who knowingly contacts the judge or any screener during the contest to discuss their entry, or even to notify the judge of their entry should be immediately disqualified; similarly, any judge or screener who contacts an entrant during the period of the contest should be disqualified
  • The judge or a representative of the judge should be reasonably available / willing to answer questions about the judging procedure from the entrants, for a period of a month after the contest has ended and the winners announced.

If you're with me, let me know. Perhaps we could start a petition signed by librarians and library workers. ALA, are you listening?

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