Monday, June 28, 2010

Comstock Review Annual Poetry Contest Deadline July 1st - $1350 in Prizes


The Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Award

Final Judge: Charles Martin
(See information below)
Initial Screening by Editors

First Prize - $1 ,000
2nd Prize -$250; 3rd Prize - $100;
Honorable Mentions - Subscriptions

DEADLINE: Postmark by July 1, 2010

Here’s how it works- Our Editorial staff chooses approximately fifty-sixty Finalists. The highest scoring Finalists (25 or so) are considered Special Merit Poems. Special Merit Poems go to the Judge. The Judge determines the top three Prize Winners, The entire editorial staff then selects the honorable mentions from the remaining Special Merits.

The Rules:
1. Each poem on a separate 8.5 by 11 page, typed.

2. Poems must be original, unpublished in ANY Medium,print or electronic,
and not under consideration elsewhere.

3. No poem must exceed 40 lines, beginning with the first line of text
below the title. DO NOT count blank lines. Please also consider
our 65 character line width when submitting.

4. Name and ALL contact information on the REVERSE side
of EACH poem entered. If not included, we have to disqualify your entry.

5. Send SASE for results only. No Poems will be returned.

6. All Prize Winners, Honorable Mentions, and Special Merit Poems
are considered accepted work, and will be published in Issue 24.2
(Fall/Winter 2010). Finalists will be queried for permission to use their work.
A non-response is considered a yes. All accepted authors will receive
one contributor’s copy of the issue.

7. An entry fee of $5 per poem is required for each poem submitted. No limit
on the number of poems at $5 each.
Special offer for 2010: Order a one-year subscription with your entry
at the discounted price of $16 (normally priced $20). If outside the US,
add $5 per copy for postage. Make check out to "The Comstock Review."

Send contest submissions, after April 1, 2010 to:
CWG Poetry Contest 2009
4956 St. John Drive
Syracuse, NY 13215

Also click here for Contest Guidelines which offer many further explanations of the rules and editor preferences.

*Red section above highlighted since we often receive poems that fall outside the rules and they will be disqualified unless we can reach the poets and have them resubmitted following the rules. The Editors

Judge for 2010: Charles Martin

Charles Martin

Charles Martin was born in New York City in 1942 and grew up in the Bronx. He is a graduate of Fordham University in New York City and received his Doctorate from SUNY at Buffalo. His most recent book of poems, Starting From Sleep: New and Selected Poems (The Overlook Press, 2002), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and was chosen as a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award of the Academy of American Poets.

Two of his earlier books of poems, What the Darkness Proposes (1996) and Steal the Bacon (1987), were both nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, The Hudson Review, Boulevard, and The Threepenny Review, among others.

About his work, the poet X. J. Kennedy has said: "A poet of masterly command, Charles Martin can think fiercely and feel intensely. He can captivate us with a sustained narrative, or dazzle us with a wicked epigram."

Martin is an acclaimed translator of Latin poetry. His verse translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses (W. W. Norton, 2003) received the 2004 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets. He has also published translations of the complete poems of Catullus (Johns Hopkins, 1990) and a critical introduction to Catullus's work which is part of Yale University Press's Hermes Series.

He is the recipient of the Literature award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Bess Hokin Award from Poetry, a 2001 Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

A professor at Queensborough Community College (CUNY), he also teaches poetry at Syracuse University, and has taught workshops at the Sewanee Writers Conference, the West Chester Conference on Form and Narrative in Poetry, and the Unterberg Center of the 92nd Street YMHA. In 2006, he was appointed Cathedral Poet in Residence at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. He lives in Manhattan and Syracuse with his wife, arts journalist Johanna Keller. (With thanks to:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


In case you missed the very first DWC PRO Graduation ceremony on Saturday, June 19th . . . we're reproducing the commencement speech given by our own Georgia Popoff here. It was an inspiring time, and everyone at the DWC is very, very proud of our first class.

I am so honored to celebrate this first class of graduates from the DWC PRO certification program. Their accomplishments in the past 2 years are admirable and substantial. As I have stated on more than one occasion, each of these writers have given him or herself a number of gifts: those of identity, creative passion, commitment, and determination. Mostly, the gift of indulging in something that they have not been able to escape and for which they may have not been fully lauded or understood by others: the life of the active writer.

As an adult, I have always been outside the standard arenas of writers because I did not remain on the path of academia. I also did not last a long time in that other more “street” crew of spoken word artists and performance poets, although I tried. Throughout my life, I have always felt “outside of,” continuing to write because it is part of my DNA. As an adult, I held two identities: first, a poet with a day job. Then, I gave up the hope that poet would be first, resigned to the fact that I would be poet as hobbyist and would somehow find a way for that to be satisfaction enough. I was wrong and, as I left a 10-year quiet time during which I experienced poetic silence and a crisis of faith, once I was again seeing myself as a poet, introducing myself as a poet first among all the jobs and avocations in which I was immersed, I had to find a title to explain myself. I settled upon that of “community poet.” This became more than a line on a business card or self-designed letterhead, this became a role, a mission, my identity.

Each of our graduates today is somehow first of community and then a writer, perhaps because they are working 50+ hours a week, or managing both job and family, or any other number of activities that do not permit days on end to sit with pen in hand or fingers to keyboard, waiting for the Muses to drop pearls and bon mots.

These writers have to do the laundry, attend to family, deal with sick loved ones, parent youngsters, earn livings, etc. Each has a busy life full of obligations, and each has stepped beyond the occasional writing course to feed their passion for language to embrace a demanding course schedule and volume of required writing that has lasted 2 years. Now that we look back to 2008, when this program was in its final stages of being designed, how quickly it all passed.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, I was the masseuse for the Women’s Fitness Center. I was in the YMCA building at least three times a week and there are still people here who worked here then. Robert at the front desk and I discussed this just the other night, how we have known each other close to 35 years. I felt a part of the Y community and I loved my role, although I didn’t make much money. But people always said poets never make money and I was deeply invested in that lie.

In March of 2000, I returned to the YMCA after nearly 16 years of other career attempts. I was setting my sights on leaving the most recent role of secretary; I was finding a way to live my life as poet first and all the other labels afterwards. Through a network of colleagues, I was referred to the Y to work in an afterschool program of the newly established Y Arts branch. Y Arts was a shot in the dark on behalf of the Y but the Metropolitan School of the Arts had folded and there was a community need to be met that ran parallel with the national YMCA objectives to serve the whole being.

I was aware of the Writers Voice program that Jason Shinder brought into prominence and we set about the process of reaching out to Jason to bring our Y into the fold. In that simple suggestion, a seed was planted that germinated with one subsequent conference call upon which I sat in. The rest has become our history, first with Phil Memmer coming to Central NY and being hired to really formulate a comprehensive arts program and to build the Center, the Writer’s Center being something that we all know is dearest to his heart and interests as a writer. What a fine job he has done. Thanks, Phil.

And look at the remarkable fact that we are not only still open and ready to celebrate our first decade but that we have this graduation today. I have been misty-eyed all week. I have also admittedly been mystified that it has all worked. But this afternoon, this party, is the best of what all of those 10 years represent. Not just in the graduates but in the overall community. We have the best of America’s writers here to read for us and share their craft and angle on the mystery of being a writer.

We have award-winning, publishing faculty who share their talents with our students. We have current faculty and likely future faculty who have come through the doors first as students and workshop participants. We have faculty who have joined first as audience members. We are a community of our own, and we draw from and serve the greater community in the process.

The only regret is that more of our neighbors throughout Central NY do not even know that this resource is available but we can continue to grow our reputation and share the good news of the DWC. We can each be an ambassador for the remarkable entity that is the Downtown Writer’s Center.

To Phil, thanks for all you have done in building these programs and keeping the doors open to create a place for artists of all ages, and particularly for writers, much less envisioning this PRO course of study. How valuable it is and how far it reaches beyond the halls of academia or the workshop weeks of a low-residency program. PRO delivers a very personal experience for each who has embarked upon the journey or are so doing now.

To Jennifer Pashley, thank you for your careful and compassionate stewardship of each of these students, as well as for each of those taking any course we offer. We also thank you for your tireless support and advocacy on the behalf of the faculty. You are the hub of the wheel and we are so grateful.

To the faculty that has mentored these students, job well done. You have been generous of spirit and time and the success of these writers is a reflection of your work as teachers. You have been discerning, even tough when necessary, but you have been kind and have amplified the sense of her/his own capacity in each of these writers. How wonderful to be among you as colleagues.

To each of you graduating, thank you for your talents. The thesis readings were spectacular and equal to any of the “PROs” who have stood behind that fabulous bar to read for us. Plus you did not make the corny joke about wanting to serve drinks; you have heard it enough to refrain.

I hope that you will all continue with your efforts to publish. You are all worthy of the investment of print and the audience that is out there for you. This afternoon is a starting point, not an end. It is time to jump off the high board now that you have worked from the lower, diving into that cool water over and over, presenting new work, flawed work, astounding work, all of it. Each of you has developed differently but all of you are so accomplished today. Embrace it fully and then do not rest on your laurels…get going. Find homes for those words and create more. Bring more characters to life, breathe life into stanzas…do it all… because you love it and because language gifts you many times over.

Lastly, I want to commend you on the way you have supported each other. The bonds among you are touching and true. The way you each recognized the other to support the growth you witnessed, to help each other be the best writer you are all capable of is another generosity that is enviable. It is the heart and center of a community writer, a title I gladly share with each of you. Congratulations and best of luck.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Kudos and Another Reading

The DWC congratulates one of its long-time students, Martin Willitts Jr. on the publication of his new chapbook, VAN GOGH'S SUNFLOWERS FOR CEZANNE” forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

According to Martin, these poems are about the last ten years of Van Gogh’s life, letters, and art, including his loneliness, insanity, visionary experiences. Some of the poems have appeared in Bent Pin, Big City Lit, Blue Fifth Review,, Paper Boats, Pulse, World Audience.

Finishing Line is looking for 55 pre-orders to begin printing. If you are interested in purchasing this chapbook, you may contact Martin directly here:

Also . . . don't forget the last of our DWC PRO Graduate Readings this Friday at 6:30. This week features poet Daniel Reinhold, and fiction writers John Sheedy and Kim DeHaven. Please join us for a reception and another stellar reading.

Congratulations to Martin, and to all of our DWC PRO graduates!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dot the I's, Cross the T's - A Checklist Before Submitting Work

We are all eager for the validation of seeing our work in print. Fortunately, there are a plethora of journals and reputable on-line literary sites to research in an attempt to identify homes for our words.

Notice that word RESEARCH. It is critical to be aware of the nature of a literary journal or web site. Who are the editors? When do they accept submissions? How are they supposed to be presented to meet the editors' expectations? All of these issues should be foremost in your decision as to whom you want to consider your work. You can get this info from many reliable sources, including the Writer's and/or Poet's Market, Poets & Writers Magazine (in print and on line), the web sites for each of the journals you are considering. Look to see what the editors already have published and how does that equal with your own artistic aesthetic.

Here are some frequent things people overlook in their haste to rush that envelope into the mail:

1) Did you include a professional cover letter with the proper name of the current managing editor? No more than 3-4 paragraphs, listing what you sent, a few publication credits, whether or not this work is being reviewed elsewhere (a whole other issue/debate), and a kind word about the fact that the editors on the other side are giving you a careful review.

2) Did you include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with proper and adequate postage to return your work?

3) Did you carefully proof your work for typos, grammatical errors, extra spaces between words, proper punctuation and capitalization when called for, etc. You would be surprised how many writers send truly sloppy submissions and then want to be considered for publication. Take pride in every word you commit to the page. It is your first impression and a sloppy submission is not a good one. Liken it to showing up on a blind date with your fly down, your hair greasy from not being shampooed, bad breath.

4) This is particularly for poets: do you know how to turn off the automatic capitalization function in your word processing program? Do you get frustrated and/or have you acquiesced to the capital letter at the beginning of each poetic line because you cannot override the function? It used to be the standard to print poems with the first word capitalized. We got away from that a long time ago. Some poets prefer to maintain the tradition but many do it simply because they do not know how to trick the computer into not doing it. Then the editor wonders which it is. Here is what is actually happening: in the autocorrect function (found in the Tools drop-down menu in WORD), the program is recognizing a new sentence every time you hit the hard return for the next line. Why? Because in prose, it will generally be a new paragraph when you hit return, and that is generally also an indication of a new sentence. To stop it, find the autocorrect entry for "Capitalize new sentence" and remove the check mark by clicking on the box so it is empty. It will no longer happen and you have artistic choices at your fingertips.

5) Do you set your margins so you can best use the page? Again, more an issue for poets. But many people do not know that WORD's margin default for left and right is 1.25 inches, 1 inch for top and bottom. Many poets submit a two page poem, second page for just three or four lines, simply because of this simple margin default. Add to it the fact that they may have left too many hard returns between their contact info and the title of the poem, forcing the second page. This simple overlook kills trees, disrupts the flow of the poem, and is easily fixed.

6) Do you have your contact info on every page? What if an editor is reading a pile of work with the window open? A breeze ruffles the pages and scatters them like leaves all over the floor. How will that editor be sure that the manuscripts are in proper order? Set up a template for yourself that you can use time and time again. Create a header with your name, address, phone, and email in the header at 0.5 inch margin. Then leave the margin at 1 inch or whatever for the actual work. This saves a lot of time, adds to consistency of your "look" when you submit, and helps those at the other end.

7) Prose/fiction writers: Did you activate the automatic page numbering in a footer or in your header so that pesky breeze does not get the best of your editor and render your story into a veritable thumb puzzle?

8) Poets: do you give editors an indication in your longer poems as to formatting? When you go to a second page (generally for poems more than approximately 32 lines, the standard that will fit on a single journal page), under your contact info, simply state: Poem title, page number, then indicate stanza break or no stanza break. Remember, you know how it is supposed to fall on the page but your editor may not have been formerly employed by Dionne Warwick's Psychic Hotline.

9) Do each of your pieces look similar and consistent? Are they in the same font, same margins, etc., from one piece to another? It is obvious when you simply recycle pages that have come back from different submissions. Remember, editors want to feel like your blind date; they want to believe you sent your work to them because you respect their work as editors and you have chosen their journal or site due to that respect, that you want the honor of their choice of you for their publication.

And remember that it takes a LOT of work to select new literature for publication. Remember that when you send your new poems or short story, there are hundreds of other passionate, eager writers doing exactly the same thing at the same time. An editor never has time to put feet up with a cup of joe and slowly read and reread your brilliant work to bask in your genius effort. Editors are up against stacks of submissions and insane deadlines. Think of their eyes, their very tired eyes that read your work because they respect writers. Be kind to them...

We hope that this little primer on submissions helps you plan your efforts well. Feel free to ask questions of the DWC faculty if you have them.

On a side note: Peter Orlovsky, Beat poet and long-time companion to Allen Ginsberg, passed away on May 31st in Vermont after a long, private battle with lung cancer. You can read more at the following link:

We hope to see you Friday as three more of the inaugural class of the DWC PRO students present their thesis readings!

Kudos . . . and a Reading

The DWC is thrilled to offer further congratulations to DWC PRO Grad Catherine Thomas, first on the publication of her story "A Mitzvah" in The Broome Review, but also on the recent news that another story, "And That Too Was Strange," will appear in an upcoming issue of Fourteen Hills.

Catherine participated in the first DWC PRO Graduate Reading Series along with fellow students Peter McShane and Kevin Cahill on Friday June 4th.

This Friday, June 11, please join us at the DWC for the second DWC PRO Graduate Reading, featuring poetry from Jessica Cuello, and fiction from both Tammy Danielewicz and Susannah Loiselle.

A wine and cheese reception kicks things off at 6:30, with the reading at 7:00.

As always, the reading is free and open to the public. Bring a friend!