When Poetry.com squashed my dreams

I am going to tell you a story that I haven’t told anyone. The story isn’t necessarily funny, unless you find squashing the dreams of an eighteen-year-old humourous. If you do, get ready for some giggles. I’m telling it because I just remembered that I had some poetry “published” online (from the high school years) and I put them up in my “Other writings” page for a laugh… and a reminder.

I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My mom gave me a diary when I was seven, and I haven’t really stopped writing since. I would fill notebooks with stories, personal thoughts and a lot of poems. Poetry, back then, came easily to me because I had a knack for rhyming. I could write a decent poem (often with an a-b-c-b rhyme scheme) in no time.

In high school, I kept writing poems, but it was way less cute. There was no more rhyming, just teen angst and the odd alliterative phrase. I probably thought I was the deepest person around (as most teenagers do) because my poems were mostly criticisms of the world as I saw it. When I think about it now, I want to go back in time and give myself a smack (as most adults do).

Anyway, I had this one poem in particular that I uploaded onto http://www.poetry.com. I wanted to share Sanguine Sonnet with the world. It was about Canadian values, which I believed were crumbling (I have no point of reference, so don’t ask for one).

When I received a letter from the head honcho of the poetry.com, congratulating me on my masterpiece, it confirmed what I already knew about my writing: I was a natural artist, ahead of my time. In his letter, the president told me that he chose my poem to be featured in that year’s collection of poems. Of course, I wouldn’t have to pay for this honour but I was encouraged to buy copies (on sale for $50) for myself and my family.

What an honour! I ordered a copy and got ready to be famous.

When the book arrived, my poem was conveniently on the first page. I was shocked. As if they would choose my poem to start the book off. But being the egomaniac that I was, I figured that SOMEone had to be the first, why not me? The book, by the way, was called “The Journey.”

What finally convinced me that it was a scam was when I read the other poems and found that they were utter crap. There was no way anyone would publish a poem called “My Mangy Cat,” not in a book called “The Journey” at least. I googled the company and found hundreds of “poets” claiming that they were also on the front page. No two copies were alike.

I felt like an idiot for three reasons.

1. I was conned AND I still owed my mom $50.
2. I had already told people that I was being published. I had a fan club. People were legitimately proud of me. I had to tell them the truth (which I never did).
3. Sanguine Sonnet was featured right next to a poem about a toilet in Brooklyn.

The only thing keeping me from complete self-loathing was that I didn’t purchase a extra page with a personal dedication on it, only $20 extra. I figured the power of my sonnet spoke for itself. Guh!

Even now, I still get letters from poetry.com, inviting me to recite my special poem at some conference. Of course, they understand that I might not be able to attend, allowing me to send $50 to have someone else read it in my stead.

We all need a lesson in humility. I learned mine for fifty bucks, which I guess is cheap when you consider how much it takes to realize the dangers of gambling.


6 thoughts on “When Poetry.com squashed my dreams

  1. The same thing happened to me! I was in grade 8 but I was able to convince the school library to purchase a copy- there is now a copy of the book in a publis school library with my work on the first page.

  2. Jen this was a great poem. You actually write well. Don’t know if you remember but when you were is grade 3 your teacher was so impressed with your rembrance day poem that she had you read it in the auditorium! Dad & I think you are a great writer and will be a novelist someday!

  3. Jen! Alas, I too fell victim to poetry.com! I too still receive letters from them begging me, pleading with me, on their knees crying for me to read at their conferences. The experiences with them only make us stronger and wiser! 🙂 Beautiful writing!

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