Sunday, August 24, 2008

To Note or Not to Note Contributors

The most recent issue of Spoon River Poetry Review includes an interesting commentary from Editor Bruce Guernsey on the inclusion or not of contributors notes in a literary publication. (And is it contributors / contributor's / contributors' - I've seen all of these!)

Bruce Guernsey addresses SRPR's choice to omit these notes - I would recommend your picking up the most recent issue to read his comments in full. In less than two pages, he succinctly and thoroughly discusses the practical issue of space in a print publication as well as the "symbolic" issue of wanting readers to focus on the poem rather than "the celebrity mentality that infects the current poetry scene." Though Guernsey admits he is just as guilty of going to contributors notes "in this all-too-competitive market world" to see "where so-and-so has recently published."

Interestingly enough, a SRPR reader sent in an e-mail saying contributors notes help know where else to find an author's work. And my response to this was the same as Guernsey's: "Look on the Internet." It does seem to be the knee-jerk response to any question we have these days, and it's Guernsey's comment on this that I found most poignant: "...given the sources we now have on the Internet, that information can almost always be easily found online. Speed and information go well together. It's poetry, that primitive technology, which is slow going and belongs in journals and books - when we can't be there to hear it, anyway."


Matt Bell said...

I do tend to read the contributor's notes in magazines, and to guiltily look at my own, but I have to say that I really like mags that omit them, like elimae, which provides absolutely nothing but the work in a very minimalist design. It must work too, because I read just about everything they publish.

Bernadette Geyer said...

Without contributors' notes, journals could publish 2-3 more poets or another short story or essay.