About Kay B. Day

Kay B. Day has provided content to print
media like The Florida Times Union, The
Writer, Coastal Homes
, News Max and other
publications
and wire services like United
Press International.
She writes a bi-weekly
column
, Web Savvy,  for the Web site of the
print magazine The Writer. Her blog
Covering
Florida
is one of the most popular Web sites
about life in The Sunshine State.

Day is the author of two traditionally published
books, a poetry collection and a memoir. She
is completing a nonfiction book and a poetry
collection.

She served as writer-in-residence for Shands-
Jacksonville’s Arts in Medicine program. She
conducts poetry presentations and a variety of
writing workshops for trade organizations,
high schools, colleges, and a number of
different arts or civic groups.

Day is a member of the American Society of
Journalists and Authors, the Society of
Professional Journalists, the Online News
Association and Florida Writers Association.

She has won awards for poetry, essay writing,
editing and fiction.

Snapshot

From
The Writer

Foetry to close after shaking up the poetry biz
Kay B. Day

Exclusive to The Writer

Less than two years ago, Foetry hit the media in a way most poetry Web sites can
only dream about. Pulitzer winners like Tomas Tizon wrote about the site in the
Los
Angeles Times
. The New York Times ran a lengthy article in the books section.
Newspapers, blogs and journals from America to England served up what
amounted to a poetry scandal. The founder of Foetry was outed. America hasn't had
a poetry-related story with that much sizzle since.

When Oregon librarian Alan Cordle founded the site,
www.foetry.com, he says he
wanted his identity kept private. "I was convinced I'd done everything right to remain
anonymous." He'd promised his wife, Kathleen Halme, who happens to be a poet,
his project "could never affect her."

Halme had good reason to be concerned. Foetry defines its purpose as "exposing
the fraudulent contests, tracking the sycophants, and naming names." When the site
leveled criticism at one of America's most entrenched academic poets, gossip and
speculation began to fly across the Internet, on blogs and in e-mails.

Running parallel to Foetry's revelations, magazines and journals began to feature
critical responses to Debra Weinstein's new novel, "Apprentice to the Flower Poet Z."
Publishers Weekly described the book as "catty ... a skewering of the university
poetry scene."
The Washington Post said that with "wicked humor," Weinstein
captured the sense of academic poets "vying with each other for attention and
praise."

Cordle still has the same hopes he had when he founded the site. He wants poetry
contests that charge a fee to be fair to entrants. To those outside Po-Biz, this may
seem naïve. But to those on the inside, who know that small presses and university
presses can take in thousands of dollars in entry fees, there can sometimes be
discomfort when a contest turns up a coincidence that appears to be more than a
coincidence.

Cordle did his homework after finding some winning coincidences a little too close
for comfort. He had the skills to research judges and winners for many prestigious
contests. He had the tenacity to dig for information. He posted what he found on the
Foetry discussion forum. And Foetry, because word about the site spread like
wildfire, offered a convenient platform for insider poets to share what they'd learned
while working as screeners and readers for major contests.

Foetry's revelations had an impact on high-profile poetry presses. In 2004, Wordtech
Communications founder Kevin Walzer told
The Writer that contest submissions
were declining anyway. Walzer said his press was "earning the majority of money
from book sales." And he moved all Word Tech's imprints to a submissions policy,
deciding to no longer run fee-based contests. Walzer has published books by Rhina
Espaillat, Len Krisak and other distinguished poets.

Other contests, such as those run by Associated Writing Programs, revamped their
guidelines.

Cordle says there's still room for a lot of improvement: "Contests that allow students
and faculty to win prizes in supposed competitions against outsiders--it's
outrageous."

The soft-spoken librarian soon found himself under attack. Administrators of some
contests claimed they'd been falsely accused. One professor who operates a small
press partly funded by contest fees told
The New York Times that Cordle "should be
ashamed of himself for what he's done, not just because he's been caught doing it."
Having been on the receiving end of Foetry criticism, she happened to be the person
who outed Cordle.

The professor, who is also a poet, had originally conjectured that two other poets
were actually the Foetry founder.

Cordle says the woman, after unsuccessfully trying to learn the Foetry founder's
identity, hired an attorney. "He wrote a scare letter to my domain registration
company."

The result: Alan Cordle's identity was revealed, and headlines sprouted up like
clichés in a garden of teen love poems.

Cordle won in the end. The domain company ended up settling with him for
mishandling his privacy. That actually allowed him to run Foetry longer than he'd
expected.

What the activist wasn't prepared for was the impact on his wife. Halme worked in
the academic world, both writing poetry and teaching creative writing.

"It was a difficult time," Cordle says. "It did and still does cause friction between us,
so we rarely talk about the site." He adds they're about to celebrate their 15th
anniversary, so there are "strong bonds."

Even though almost two years have passed, Cordle says he still gets negative
e-mail. "In the past six months, I've received e-mails that allude to lynchings, downed
airplanes and other threats."

So was it worth it? Definitely. "It feels really good overall," he says, of the difference
he's made in the way poetry contests are run. "There are more appreciative poets
than the few haters."

There were intangible benefits as well. "I have many new friends, thanks to Foetry,"
he says. "I feel really lucky to have found poets, other writers, and many people who
care about issues of intellect and justice." He believes there is still a need for reform
in the way American poetry contests are run.

He advises poets to exercise caution when parting with their hard-earned cash.
"Avoid presses that exploit entrants by allowing professors to select their own
students." Likewise, avoid presses that "charge excessive reading fees, and then
attempt to bilk poets with promises of full manuscript reviews." Cordle believes it's
fine to establish friendships and make connections, "but not at the expense of
others."

Soon, he says he'll close the doors on Foetry. He is taking a sabbatical to go to
South Africa for a seminar on race.

Kathleen Halme will be as busy as her husband. Her new poetry collection "Drift and
Pulse" has just been published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Readings and
events are lined up.

Foetry, like all other Internet content, will remain available in the form of cached
pages and through historical archives at major search engines like Google.

Cordle says people may come to the site before it closes and post comments--"a
what-Foetry-meant-to-me" sort of response.

He appreciates those who helped him with administration and other tasks, like Matt
Koeske, Nomi Hurwitz, Jennifer Semple Siegel, and a fellow he calls "Monday Love."
But it's time to move on to other things.

"We need our lives back," he says.

(May 15, 2007, Poetry Beat by Kay B. Day; The Writer magazine online.)
Home Page
Read more clips by Kay B. Day.
    Kay B. Day
    Stories for the Web and print media