Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Paris Review starts again fresh (again!) and dumps the files (again!).

George Plimpton climbing that ladder:  Keep climbing, George, you don't want to be back down here. Things are not well.

So what is the proper reaction to the news last week that The Paris Review has returned the contracts for the poetry that had been accepted for publication over the past year or so?

Here’s Daniel Nester, to bring you up to speed:


And here’s part two:


I don’t’ really have anything to add to Nester’s bit, but I’ll go ahead anyway:

On the one hand, you have the management perspective. There’s a new editor and new poetry editor and they want to start fresh from day one. “Under New Management” and all that. Out with the old news, in with the new news. Fresh start.

On the other hand, you have the fact that some of these contracts are over a year old (I know at least three poets who have had their work now returned, and one of them tells me that his contract is nearly two years old). Is there an obligation that The Paris Review has to these writers?

On the third hand, you have the back story. We are well to remember the brouhaha when Richard Howard left The Paris Review some years ago with a couple years of poetry accepted and The Paris Review returned all those contracts. It was debated then if it was an ethical decision or not for them to return the work, but the feeling was against Richard Howard mostly, and there was talk that he’d accepted tons of work in some sort of frenzy or something . . . but now? No one seems to be saying that the exiting editors were part of a frenzy.  They seem to have done what one is supposed to do.

On the fourth hand, I’ve always thought that a contract to publish was, well, a contract. Shouldn’t a contract mean something? If not, why do we bother with them?

Or, on the fifth hand, or possibly by now, the foot, why do poets continue to bother with The Paris Review? Might this be time for a shunning? Or are we all going to jump back on the go round?

Here’s a different sort of response, from Michael Schiavo:



At 7/20/2010 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should we care about a bunch of insiders dumped from an insider's magazine?

At 7/20/2010 3:01 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I'm clueless about such things, so I can't comment on "insider" or not, but the "dumped" part is interesting to me. It raises issues about the relationship of literary journals and writers that I think need to be talked about. And that has resonance beyond the narrow confines of The Paris Review.

I'd like to see CLMP, or AWP, or P&W, or some other comparable organization at least make a statement. That sounds kind of lame, but it would be a start toward some sort of code of ethics. Anything would be a start.

At 7/20/2010 3:40 PM, Blogger Supervillainess said...

It does seem rude, if nothing else. I worked (very briefly) in book publishing, and we had to cancel books all the time. Usually, we paid them something (a kill fee) if they had a contract and had turned in chapters. It struck me that perhaps that (offering a kill fee) would have been the classier move in the Paris Review case, just the mollify the writers they've jerked around.

At 7/21/2010 8:38 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Free publicity, which will mainly redound to Messrs Stein, Creswell, one supposes Seidel, Muldoon, and... dunno, CKW?

At 7/21/2010 8:45 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Oh, I know. Goal number one in the publicity business . . . but still, you know? It seems to me, as a super villainess would say, a rude way to think of the writers one has sent a contract to and then had it signed and put in the files.

I want them to feel at least a little bad about carrying them all to the dumpster.

At 7/21/2010 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm clueless about such things, so I can't comment on 'insider' or not..."

In his session w/ Nester, Josh Corey said that his dumped poem was solicited by the editors.

Graham Foust on twitter: “I’m actually not that upset–they’re giving me fries with my kill fee, and the poems were all just shit I took from Google anyway.”

Who's the man?

At 7/21/2010 1:56 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Foust, it would appear!

WV: utter

At 7/21/2010 6:35 PM, Blogger Steve Fellner said...

The same thing happened to me with these unacceptances!

Here's the link:


At 7/22/2010 4:24 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I'm starting to feel left out. I've never had rejection envy before.

I'd worry about it, except that I have this stack of chain mail to get back to . . .


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