Yes, I admit it.  After entering an on-line poetry contest and being "selected" for publication, I thought I was on my way to being a recognized poet.  I was wrong, and after a year of being hounded for money I have only come to realize what a scam Poetry.con really is.  It appears that they will publish anyone for any reason, with the hopes that you will buy the book your poem is published in.  At over 300 entries they stand to make up to $12,000 for printing your poem, because the other 299 poets are just as gullible as you are.

Truth is, most poets get paid for their works, and as far as I know ALL authors get at least one copy of the book they are published in...so why pay for a book that is only going to be purchased by other poets who don't know that it's a scam?  Well, the basic story is laid out here...please feel free to share this with your friends.

Oh, and if you want, I'll publish your poetry on my website for just 20 bucks, guaranteed to actually be read by at least one person a week!  That's a half price scam, where can you find an offer like that?  Act now, operators are standing by...

Poetry Dot Con

In the spring of 2001 I was surfing the internet looking for a way to market some of my poetry. I had been writing for years and if I didn’t make some sort of effort I knew that nobody would come knocking on my door, asking if I, by some odd chance, had poetry for them. My hours of searching brought me to a site called: Poetry.com. I navigated through the site and saw that they had monthly contests and large cash prizes that were awarded throughout the year. They offered publishing deals, awards, money…everything that would lure in unsuspecting, amateur poets like myself.

I decided to submit a poem to see what would happen, but their entry form, which was limited to 20 lines at 75 characters each, posed a dilemma for me. A vast majority of my poetry was written with the intent of becoming a song, therefore everything I had previously written was far too long. I had already started filling out the form and didn’t want to start over, so I decided to make up another poem to fit within their guidelines. Since I had just gotten home and spent a half-hour in rush hour traffic, I wrote something based on my very recent experience and titled it "Rush Hour People". When I was finally happy with my entry I clicked on the "submit" button and crossed my fingers.

A few weeks had passed and I got a letter in the mail from Poetry.com. They liked my poem and informed me that their selection committee had carefully read and discussed it, and had chosen it for publication. I was ecstatic! My very first poetry submission to a "big" publishing company was making it possible for me to add "Published Poet" to my dossier. They sent me an "artist’s proof" and asked me to verify, initial and return the form to them. They also offered me a discounted price on the book it was to be published in, a part of their "Anthology" series.

Being the skeptic that I am, I decided to look into the matter a little further. I figured that if Amazon.com sells any of their previous books, then perhaps they might be legitimate. Sure enough, I found a couple of their other books and they were selling for more than the discounted price I was given. So, I figured I would buy the book, especially since it was my first published poem. Also offered up for a small fee was a spot in the book for me to do a short write-up about my poem or myself. I figured this would be a great place for me to plug my personal website so I filled it out, proofed my poem and returned the form, complete with a check to cover the cost of the book and the short bio.

Overly encouraged by this publishing deal and the monthly prizes, I submitted several other poems to their website in the weeks that followed. I figured if "Rush Hour People", a spur of the moment poem, could be published then certainly some of my other poems with deep thought and poetic prose could win one of the prizes. I continued writing until I had about ten poems submitted. Each time a poem was submitted it went under review and then ultimately didn’t win any prizes or publishing deals. I read some of the other poems that won cash prizes and thought to myself, "how can this win and my poems don’t even get acknowledged?" I didn’t like the other poems…most of them didn’t even rhyme or follow any thought pattern. I quickly became discouraged and decided to just wait for my poem to be published and toyed with the idea of self-publishing sometime in the future.

Weeks, then months, went by and still none of my other entries were worthy of publishing, However, I was constantly being bombarded with offers for certificates and plaques, and to sign up for home study courses to become a better poet. I was offered to attend seminars and mingle with other poet laureates of my time, and all these offers, of course, would cost me money. I was slowly beginning to see what Poetry.com was all about. What finally woke me up to the harsh reality was the grand finale of all the offers: I was selected, among dozens of others, as a finalist for the $20,000 grand prize and my 15 seconds of fame, being recognized amongst my peers as a successful poet. This invitation to a huge seminar and banquet was in Washington, D.C., and came with a hefty price tag: roughly $700, plus air fare and hotel accommodations. Oddly enough, I had just returned home to San Diego from Maryland on vacation. I called Poetry.com and asked about the banquet, explaining to them that while I was selected as a finalist, I was unable to attend. I was almost immediately told that I could only win if I attended the seminar, and that pretty much cut my chances all the way down to a definite "snowball’s chance in hell".

I wasn’t so distraught over not winning anything as much as I was bothered that I let myself get suckered into such a scam. I am far more skeptical than this and I let my guard down, I was disappointed that I had submitted so many poems to such a useless endeavor. I visited Poetry.com after being away for several months and I tried to find a way to delete my poems, but was unable to do so. What I found out, though, was that I could modify them. The first line of the poem was set in stone, so to speak, but the subsequent lines were up for grabs. So I made an executive decision and wrote another little poem that I placed under the first line of each of my poems. The poem was this:

Do not fall prey to Poetry.com
They’ll incessantly beg you for money
I know this because I feel for it too
And I don’t think any of this is funny

After pasting this under all of my poem entries I noticed that I misspelled "fell" but figured that it was not a big deal…people would get the gist of my final poem. After that, I haven't been back to their site.

My book finally arrived in the fall of 2001 and there was my poem, way back on page 175. I figured as much, I hadn’t paid any extra money to them over the summer and was sure that placement probably came with a price tag anyway. I also looked at my short bio and as expected my plug for my website was deleted and the wording slightly modified. I didn’t care, it was a waste of money anyway and not worth the bragging rights of being published. I didn’t receive many more letters, and when I did I glanced at the request for money and threw it away. They dwindled down and I figured that I probably heard the last of Poetry.com.

Over the past few months, I’ve seen other people on the internet who have touted that they are a published poet, all thanks to Poetry.com, and I have to chuckle. "Kids", I say to myself in my infinite wisdom, "they’ll believe anything you tell them." If they only knew what I know.

I was on my way out to meet a friend for a movie the other day and stopped by my mailbox. I got another letter from Poetry.com. "What now", I wondered. The large envelope had two plastic windows…one to display my address and another on the left that proudly displayed one of my poems, one with the negative comments about Poetry.com, to be exact. I couldn’t imagine why they would send this to me, and was even more baffled by the way it was displayed for anyone to read. I opened the letter and saw something strangely familiar. It seems that my poem, titled "Anymore", was selected for publication in their next book, and this was my "artist’s proof" that I was to initial and return to them. Even funnier was the accompanying letter that stated that their judges "carefully read and discussed my poem". The letter also commended me on my talents and poetic ability. The entire poem that they "carefully read and discussed"? You won’t believe me if I tell you, but here it is:

© M. Scott Harding
You and I had something yesterday
Do not fall prey to Poetry.com
They’ll incessantly beg you for money
I know this because I feel for it too
And I don’t think any of this is funny

Only thing I wonder now is if they will actually publish it if I correct the spelling and send it back to them. Oh, how I would love to see their faces when they do actually read this poem for the first time. Can you imagine their confusion? "Well, it’s a slam on us, but it does rhyme."