The ILP advertised free poetry contests in newspapers and magazines, with cash prizes for the finalists and publication in a hardbound anthology for finalists and semi-finalists. The contest wasn’t a real contest, however. Just about everyone who submitted a poem was declared a semi-finalist, and offered the “opportunity” to buy the anthology in which their work was to appear (with, of course, a discount for multiple purchases). If they stumped up for the anthology, they were bombarded by offers of other ways to spend money: yet more contests, their poems embossed on coffee mugs or enshrined on plaques, memberships in poets’ societies (which demanded $100 or more in annual dues), attendance at poetry conferences (which cost as much as $600, travel and hotel not included).
In 2009, the ILP finally went bust, and the Poetry.com domain was acquired by self-publishing service Lulu.com (I blogged about this when it happened). Lulu kept the functionality of the Poetry.com website–including the thousands of poems published by Poetry.com participants over the years–but discontinued the vanity anthologies and the merchandising aspects of the business.
Good news for poets–though of course there was no shortage of similar schemes to take the ILP’s place.
Now it appears that the Poetry.com domain has changed hands again. The new owner is a company called Newton Rhymes, LLC, which filed a trademark application for the Poetry.com name in January of this year. Virtually no information on Newton Rhymes turns up in a web search, other than the fact that it is a brand-new business based in Massachusetts and licensed in New York, which also owns a rather neglected-looking website called TRCornelius.com that advertises writing contests.
Former Poetry.com participants found out about the change via an email solicitation at the end of March, inviting them to “claim” their poems on the re-launched Poetry.com website and “share your message with the world!”
The new Poetry.com–which is already drawing participants–features a points and badges system, allowing poets to earn points for activities such as providing critiques and promoting Poetry.com on social media. Poets who amass 25,000 points earn an ugly pin. The poets who earn the most points for doing various things that boil down to promoting the site are promised an appearance on national TV (no details on when or where).
Though the junk mail-style tone of the solicitation email and the tacky look of the re-vamped website don’t bode well, membership in the new Poetry.com is free, and there’s no sign of the contests, anthologies, coffee mugs, or other cheesy methods by which the ILP extracted cash from poet-participants.
I’ll be keeping an eye on the new Poetry.com, and will update this post if anything changes.
UDATE 9/13/17: From a comment just left on this post:
Poetry.com appears to have a new owner (Hold Gold, LLC, based in Park City, Utah) as of September 1st. Sadly, the archival database of user-submitted poems no longer seems to be available. The site looks like it’s starting from scratch, with a new design and no former poems available on it. See https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/contestpoems/#ilp and, for a name affiliated with the company, https://secure.utah.gov/bes/details.html?entity=9651457-0160.
UPDATE 7/18/18: After changing hands yet again in 2017, Poetry.com appears to have vanished from the web. Writer Beware has heard from many poets wanting to find the poems they posted on the site–again, the site is gone, but here’s a possible idea for retrieving your poetry: using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to search archived versions of Poetry.com.
Try this: Open up Poetry.com at Archive.org
Archive.org takes snapshots of every single page on the Internet. They have approximately 461,880 pages saved from Poetry.com over the past 21 years.
I suggest picking a date near the mid 2017 as they were the most likely to load for me and see if you can find your public profile.
You WILL NOT be able to log in to your old account. Remember, this is just a snapshot of what the website looked like at a certain point in time. It is NOT a functioning website. The search feature will NOT WORK either.
You can also try opening poetry.com/poems/ to see the full list of poems.
If you happen to have a URL bookmarked where your poems were once stored, plug that URL directly into Archive.org instead.
This will be your best chance at recovering your old content.
If this works for you, please leave a comment here to let me know.
Also: the Library of Congress maintains an informational resource on vanity poetry anthologies, with general information on a number of the biggest vanity anthologizers, and in some cases, suggestions on how it may be possible to find your poems.
UPDATE 12/9/19: The Poetry.com web domain is back in existence, though the page has no content other than a “coming soon” message.
UPDATE 9/6/21: Apparently Poetry.com is returning…again. It’s claimed that they will be bringing back the poems archived on the site. The company that’s taken over the domain, STANDS4, owns a large number of reference and dictionary websites.
The new Poetry.com site is here.