On successful experiments and my sudden excitement

I am so thrilled to share that the first five of my visual poetry (or poem-collage) pieces have been accepted for publication! "(Hooded skullcap / plate 171)," "(false dragonhead / plate 170)," "(jack-in-the-pulpit / plate 2)," "(round-leaved sundew & venus flytrap / plate 74)," and "(swamp pink / plate 35)" will be appearing in a future issue(s) of Duende

More than being excited, it is such an incredible relief to have this new experimental work validated by other editors and publishers. Making these pieces was a great leap for me—I did not have a map for how they should be and how they would fit with with my purely textual work. I am also unfamiliar with the landscape of publishing such hybrid pieces. I was confident in my need to create them because the impulse came from the same place that pushes me to write a particular poem about a particular thing with those particular words. But after that, it was like sending out my first poems again. I had no internal sense of their worth outside of what they meant to me on a personal level. It was the first time in years thatafter asking myself: "Is this any good?"—I had no tools to measure or determine the answer. I was taking a big artistic risk and I had to continue taking that risk to find out. 

Because these visual poems are an integral part of my full-length manuscript, it is even more important to me that these pieces are granted some outside legitimacy. I have begun submitting the manuscript to presses and contests, and of course, having visual art pieces (let alone full-color visual art) in the book has made it an even more challenging process. I read the guidelines very carefully to make sure manuscripts containing visual art are even able to be considered, because of limited printing budgets, because of press and editor tastes and preferences. If I am still unsure, I will query the press before submitting and spending a not-insignificant submission fee on a prospect that will be turned away without being read or honestly considered because of these very real and understandable conditions. It narrows my pool of possible publishers considerably. That being said, Pleiades Press actually has a Visual Poetry Series that I am very excited about. I already submitted the manuscript there, of course.

Another challenge I've had to address—because these visual poems are mixed-media collage pieces—is determining whether my use of copyrighted materials qualifies as fair use, and therefore, whether I was legally allowed to publish them as my own creative work. This is such a fuzzy area that some publishers don't want to tangle with it at all, just to stay on the safe side (which, again, shrinks my pool of possible presses). But I did my research here, with the help of poets who work in erasure and other areas of found poetry. I found a few helpful resources here from the Graphic Artists Guild and here from the Center for Social Media at American University and here from Found Poetry Review and here from Jane Friedman's blog. What I learned from all of these, is that the determination of fair use of copyrighted materials (which means you don't have to seek permission from the copyright holder to use and publish it) comes down to four main points:
  1. "The purpose and character of the use, including whether you've made a new transformative work, and whether your use is commercial."
  2. "The nature of the original work, such as whether it is more factual than fictional."
  3. "How much of the original work was used."
  4. "Whether the new use affects the potential market for the original work."
Since I used small pieces from various factual source materials to create a new transformative work that is creative rather than commercial (I'm not selling it on T-shirts, etc.) and has no affect on the potential market for the original work, I've determined, without a doubt in my mind, that these visual poems qualify as fair use. It doesn't mean I'm not a little nervous, with this being entirely new territory for me. But I've done my homework here. And of course, wherever any of these are published, citations for the source materials will always be included. 

All of this is to say, that it's definitely been a challenge working in this new area that is part poetry, part visual art. So this new validation means even more to me because of it. Thank you so much to Duende for taking a chance on me and my experiments. Keep an eye out for their appearance in the near future!


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