The Bacopa saga

The 2010 Bacopa ReviewOn 30 August 2010 I submitted a selection of poems to the Bacopa Literary Review, produced by the Writers Alliance of Gainesville. An obscure journal to say the least (I think Gainesville is somewhere in Florida).

I subscribe to the Duotrope’s Digest RSS feed which advises me of all manner of journals open for submissions. There are lots of journals around the world, some electronic, some print based. I sift through the upcoming deadlines and read the submission guidelines to see if any of my work will fit. It’s not that I’m obsessed with publication, I write for myself, but I use the submissions to give me an idea of whether I’m ‘improving’ with my writing, so I submit to many journals, from the local to the far reaches of the globe (like Gainesville).

Sometime in October 2010 I received an email to tell me that two of the poems I’d submitted were not appropriate for the journal, however, they were holding one for further consideration. They took pains to tell me that it was not a guarantee of publication. So, I submitted the other two poems elsewhere (one of which will be appearing on another website in the next few weeks) and held off on sending the ‘held’ poem.

In January 2011 they wrote again to tell me that they had accepted my poem. This had been one of the longest acceptance processes I’d been through, but I was happy. There followed a few smaller emails questioning the formatting, single spacing being preferred by the editors over one and a half spacing that is generally the norm with submissions. I replied that it was fine to adjust the spacing.

Then all went quiet. No further emails, no proof sheets, no ‘contracts’.

In April I sent off an email asking what was happening. I kept an eye on their website for updates. Nothing. No reply to the email, no updates to the website.

Then earlier this month their website was updated, thunderbirds were go on the Review, launching 22 May. I still had no proper confirmation that I was in, I just figured I’d wait and see if I received a contributor copy.

Today, I got the copy. It cost $US9.60 to mail, plus the cost of the padded bag, and the journal retails in the US for $12.50. I ripped open the padded bag, opened the journal to the table of contents. There I was, page 100, ‘what is real’ by Mark William Jackson. I flicked straight to page 100 (as you do), there was the first half of my poem, then page 101? ‘Learning from Bees’ by Marian Kaplun Shapiro. After all the above; the submission, the wait, the email that I’d made it to the second round, the wait, the acceptance, the discussion regarding formatting (without proof sheets), the silence, the unanswered email, the stagnant website; they’d published half of my poem.

Now the poem can’t be submitted to another journal because it has ‘technically’ been published (in the Bacopa Review produced by the Writers Alliance of Gainesville, Florida).

So, here is the poem, in its entirety, I have added bold to the section missing in the Bacopa Review; it is a rather important section as it turns the tone of the poem, hopefully it adheres to Robert Frost’s theory that a poem ‘begins in delight and ends in wisdom’.

And the point of this long introduction? Regardless of where you are in your writing career be careful where you submit.

what is real

in this binary world
the liminal is lost
	only space between
and	now here

what is real

is it
the pen that slashes
across the page
in thrusts and swoops
like a swashbuckling hero
defending an honour

the dollar
wrestled from the grip of time
	a reward for trading
	hours		   away
calculated rates of
interest and exchange

the needle that digs in
	through skin
to deliver its
chemical images
what if the doors of perception
were cleansed
	and the reality
		drove us mad

or is it
the flickering visions of the past
captured on the mind’s celluloid
or discarded on the cutting room floor
for not being
	of production quality

what is real
	real is the memory of things to come
	real is that love
that did not start
and will not finish
but just is.

First published at Mark William Jackson.

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  1. “After all the above; the submission, the wait, the email that I’d made it to the second round, the wait, the acceptance, the discussion regarding formatting (without proof sheets), the silence, the unanswered email, the stagnant website; they’d published half of my poem.”


  2. Devastating, Mark. But I love that you’ve managed to slyly get the poem onto this blog :). Now it has technically been published by Overland in its entirety (albeit online).Tee hee.

    • Thanks Maxine (writes Mark, winking 😉 ‘slyly’). But I also hope the message is conveyed for others that even though writers, at the start of what is hoped to be a career, are prepared to write for recognition in lieu of payment, there is still an amount of respect and professionalism deserved.

  3. Mark, very interesting post, and, like Maxine, it’s great that this poem now has a proper home in the world.

    Whoever gets into publishing – journals, agents, publishers, website owners, even bloggers – respect and professionalism should indeed be readily available.

    By the way, I once submitted two micro stories to an Australian journal. They published both, which was wonderful of them, except, when I finally got my copy of the publication, they’d put both pieces together as if they were one. Needless to say I’m sure most readers got to my contribution and thought, man, that Featherstone bloke writes completely unintelligible rubbish. In this instance, I told the journal and they were very, very apologetic, sending me a collection of every single edition they’d put out (which have since been donated to the local writers centre).

    • Thanks for the comment Nigel. I’m not sure what people will think of the poem as it is published in the Bacopa Review, in honesty I don’t think too many people would have paid any attention to it outside of the Writers Alliance of Gainesville.

      I’ve sent an email to the editors of Bacopa, I know there is nothing they can do with this edition, but I suggested that in the future they send out proof sheets so that contributors can check for issues.

  4. mmmm. what an interesting proprostion writing is isn’t it. I write for self and I experienced something similar a few years ago. I entered a poem into a competition and never heard back. I just thought ahh…well try again. But some months later, I received a phonecall asking my permission to publish the poem. When I asked how come, I was advised that the poem was placed second and they wanted to publish it in their journal. I agreed and requested a copy of said journal which of course, never arrived. Before I hung-up I asked what type of poem had come first as I am always interested in reading good poetry – wait for it – the person on the phone then responded…well the President’s poem came first…I was a little gobsmacked…well okay…a lot gobsmacked…but I said I didnt think it would be possible that the president of an organisation would enter their own writing competition and then of course win…was I being sarcastic…anyway, the called hung-up and I never heard anymore…so I will go ahead and publish my poem in my upcoming collection:):) sorry for the long post…but it seems strange things do happen

    from http://revedoa@blogspot.com

    • That’s terrible Olga, most reputable journals will preclude all staff from entering competitions. There’s no doubt that there are a lot of scams out there. I hope you didn’t have to pay an entry fee for this competition, if you did then it becomes outright fraud.
      It’s great though that your poem will breathe again in your collection.

  5. Mark, unfortunately too many of these stories of writers being treated very poorly.

    I should say from the outset that I’ve mostly had positive experiences but I’ve listened to many friends who have not been so lucky.

    There are often panels set up to advise emerging writers about what editors expect from them but I’d like to also see a panel of emerging writers offering some advice to editors.

    But Mark, your poetry is wonderful and good you have been able to be able to post it at Overland where writers are treated respectfully.

    • Thanks Trish, and likewise, most of my dealings have been fantastic. Editors have a truly difficult job to do and I’ve been lucky that most I have dealt with have been truly professional.
      A panel of writers discussing what they expect from editors would be interesting.
      Thank you for the compliment on my poetry, and yes, Overland is a wonderful, safe port when sailing the treacherous submission seas (sorry about the nautical metaphor, my daughter has had me watching Pirate of the Caribbean).

  6. Dear Mark,

    In the past three weeks we’ve had a complete turnover of editorial staff at Bacopa Literary Review and I’m now the Editor-in-Chief.

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, both the lack of communication and the failure to print part of your poem. I had no idea of this, and only found your post while googling to see what showed up for the journal.

    Among many changes, we’ve shortened the submission period to three months and I will urge the genre editors to respond promptly. We also hope to raise Bacopa’s standards and image, though I can understand your annoyance toward an “obscure journal” in a town “somewhere in Florida.” Maybe in Australia the Florida “Gators” aren’t known, but Gainesville isn’t really a hick town, though it is somewhat a large college town.

    I’d like to make amends to you and one way would be to post your full poem in our new blog, with apologies. Such a post would probably give it more exposure than the print journal itself, as we’re posting also on Facebook and Twitter, where I’m connected with a number of writers and poets.

    Take a look at our blog, http://bacopaliteraryreview.blogspot.com, and let me know if you’re willing to have your poem and our public apology there.

    I’m grateful that you at least included Bacopa among your publications.

    Warm regards,

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