Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Poetry Institute of Canada - Thinly veiled Vanity Press

I have a confession to make!  Last year I wrote a poem, a really, really bad poem. Ok, I can’t take all of the credit for this extremely bad piece of prose, as a friend from Starbucks co-wrote the poem with me. I’ll share this horrendous example of putrid writing with you at the end of this blog.

But I’m extremely proud of this bad work of art, as it was intended to be terrible, and it was written to prove a point. The point being that the Poetry Institute of Canada will likely print every piece of bad prose that is sent to them.

I was introduced to the Institute through my elderly father, who had submitted several pieces of work to them for consideration in their 2013 and 2014 Poetry and Short Story contests.
These contests are run on an annual basis and prizes are actually given to the winners. Now how much of an honor is it when they award multiple prizes at every level except for the grand prize?

This year there were 5 - 2nd place prizes, 10- 3rd place prizes, and 20 - 4th place prizes.

Are there some good examples of writing submitted, probably, but it’s a given in the industry that the Poetry Institute is a thinly veiled Vanity Press that prints writing of any quality - good, bad or terrible. To the best of my knowledge their books are not sold in book stores (other than their own), on line and do not appear in library catalogues. Draw your own conclusions! Most well known writer’s sources list the Institute as a printer to avoid. They do produce the promised books and send them to the gullible fools that enter the contests so, it can’t really be considered a scam.

Well, my father wouldn’t believe that the books published by the Institute are simply an opportunity to feed the ego of amateur writers and that they will print virtually anything, no matter how bad it is.
Therefore my friend and I decided to test our suspicions and produce a remarkably bad poem and submit it to the contest.

Our poem entitled- REFLECTIONS ON REFLECTIONS was written in less than 3 minutes as we each blurted out a random line of meaningless gibberish. We began each sentence of prose with one of the letters forming the word reflections, purposely forgetting the final S. We created a real stinker.

Then we submitted it for consideration. After a few months I received a letter from the Institute informing me that the poem had been chosen as part of the top flight of entries to be considered for one of the prizes. Then comes the part that confirms this is a vanity press, for the paltry sum of X $ I could receive a copy of their anthology entitled RIVER MAGIC. Of course I declined. 

Well long story short, my father’s copy of River Magic arrived the other day and yes, REFLECTIONS ON REFLECTIONS was included. We didn't win a prize, but I suspect that submissions are only considered for a prize if you decide to pony up the fee to purchase a copy of the book.
There you have - it’s a vanity press!

Here's the poem- please hold your nose when reading.

Reflections on Reflections
Even when the lights are out
Fords rust in the dying light
Love has abandoned me
Even the crows have flown into the morning mist
Cascading tears streams down my cheek
Time has eroded Morrison’s name from his tombstone
I am alone, weighted heavy with draping depression
One is not the loneliest number
Never will I be with you again