Foetry attack on Iowa "taking off"; UI officials "astonished" at growing angry chorus . . .
The Foetry attack on the University of Iowa for the way it hands out its fiction and poetry awards “is really taking off,” reports Scott Jaschik in an Inside Higher Ed story. “At the Iowa Press, officials are astonished to find themselves under attack by an army of poets and poetry fans — most of them anonymous,” he writes, before giving those officials a chance to repeat their now-standard response—Iowa Press director Holly Carver again stresses that the contests are “blind” and says, “It’s just a little hard to say how our contest could be more democratic than it already is.” But as Jaschik then notes, “Foetry and its readers have plenty of ideas about that . . . for many Foetry readers, the obvious answer is for Iowa to bar its alumni and current or former employees from entering.” But as one impartial observer notes, that may not be as simple as it sounds. “If you say no awards can be given to students, does that mean someone who was in a summer workshop 12 years ago, they are forever ineligible? It’s not a black and white issue. it never is. It’s complex — like poetry,” says Academy of American Poets head Tree Swenson. Still, Swenson also joins what does seem to be a growing consensus, telling Jaschik, “I think it’s great that somebody is out there monitoring the ethics and procedures.” Or, in the blunter language of one of the several Foetry commentators that Jaschik quotes, “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, to perpetrate a fraud on aspiring poets, and hide under your university umbrella to lure unsuspecting people into your web of deceit. Any respectable contest bars employees, including former employees,” one writes to the Iowa officials, then adding that Iowa’s award is “a fixed contest that is really just a mutual admiration society for a tiny clique.”
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.