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Posting your Poetry

Comments and Conversations

Technical and Miscellaneous

What is AAPC?
Alt.arts.poetry.comments is a Usenet (what?) group where poets put up their work for comments or critiques. Some poets use the group as a sounding board before submitting their poem(s) to literary magazines. Most are looking for advice or help in fine-tuning their writing, developing better images, improving their use of language, and making sure their writing is clear and enjoyable to the reader.

What does c&c mean?
Generally, Comments & Critiques (or Criticism). Some writers put this in the header of their post (i.e. "Lazy Day Poem - C&C Please") to indicate that they want comments on their poem. However, since the group is devoted to comments, posts may receive a reply of some kind even without the C&C designation.

Do you have irc chats or other scheduled gatherings?
Nothing formal or scheduled, at least not in recent memory.

Are there any AAPC-related web sites?
Well, there's this one(!) Many participants have their own sites, and most list them in their signature files or post notices of updates to the newsgroup.

There are some links to regulars' sites mixed in among the 'poetry' page, too.

Are there any published / famous / infamous poets in the group?
Many of the regular participants have had some of their work published. Some are published widely in anthologies and well-respected poetry journals.

Do poetry editors read the newsgroup?
Some participants are editors of poetry journals, both on-line and print. Quite possibly there are other editors who "lurk" (read but don't post).

Might I be offered a book contract by posting my poetry here?
Not likely. If you are, approach it with caution.

How should I post my poetry?
There are no cut-and-dried rules for posting poetry to AAPC. However, there are a few "don'ts" that are fairly broadly agreed upon:

  • Do not post your poem as an attachment to your message. Most internet users are aware that dangerous computer viruses can be contained in Microsoft Word documents, and will ignore .doc attachments. In general, it is easier on the reader to include the poem in the body of the post; downloading and opening attachments usually takes too much time.
  • Do not post using HTML. Some newsgroup-reading software cannot handle HTML posts, and some automatically reject them, so not everyone will see your post. They also are larger in size and take up more space on the computer and more bandwidth in transmission. Most software used to read and post newsgroups allows you to choose between posting as plain text or HTML; choose the plain text option.
  • Do not attach pictures (binaries, gifs, jpegs, etc.) or sound files (wavs, midis, mpegs, etc.) to your posts. Again, some news servers will automatically reject them, so not everyone will see your post.
  • Do not type your poem or message in all capital letters. Using all caps is universally considered "shouting" in newsgroups and chat rooms.

How many poems should I post at a time?
While there is no limit to the number of poems you can post at a sitting, people are most likely to read and respond to your poem if you post no more than two or three at a time. Also, keep in mind that since there are many poems posted each day, a shorter work is more likely to receive comments.

What kind of header should I use?
Use the title of the poem, if it has one. If you can't decide on a title, try a header like: "Need a Title..." to let the reader know you'd appreciate help with a title. If it is your first poem-post, it is fine to use the header "First Poem" or "First Post". Do not use headers designed strictly to get attention, and it is preferable not to use headers that have nothing to do with your poem.

Should I introduce myself in my first post?
By all means, particularly if you're young or you just recently started writing poetry. A poem that might be considered promising if written by a talented beginner or bright kid could well be judged harshly if respondents assumed it was written by a serious poet with years of experience.

Do I have to have a title for my poem?
Not necessarily - see #10.

Do I have to use my real name?
Internet handles are okay, many regulars use them. To build familiarity, stick to the same one, or use your real name.

Do I have to write a certain kind of poetry?
AAPC has poets who use all forms and styles of poetry. The group includes but is not limited to free verse, tanka, haiku, sonnet, sestina.... Feel free to use the poetic form you are most comfortable with, or to post experiments in forms. There are several poets who are quite knowledgeable and can help you with the rules of certain poetic forms.

Should I copyright my poems?
It appears that under current U.S. copyright law, a poem is automatically copyrighted at the time of creation. Most works posted to AAPC are automatically stored on Google, and that may provide sufficient evidence of provenance in a lawsuit.

  • Copies of the forms for copyrighting poetry, prose and technical articles, and information on how to fill them out can be found at the Library of Congress site.
  • More information about copyright issues

Can I post a poem in a language other than English?
There are a few bilingual regulars in the group, but you should not expect a lot of response if you post in a different language. To improve the chances of getting feedback, post the poem in both English and the original language.

Can I post song lyrics?
While the major focus of this group is lyric poetry, there are no guidelines that say you can't ask for comments on song lyrics here. It's generally agreed that the technical criteria for song lyrics are in some respects different from the criteria for lyric poetry. For example, song lyrics can be freer rhythmically, because the music provides the beat. We suggest that if you post the lyrics to a song, you identify it as such; that way you're less likely to be criticized for the wrong reason.

Are there any subjects that aren't allowed?
This newsgroup is unmoderated, so there is no external censorship of posts. While few of the works posted here are inappropriate for kids, parents with young children should be aware that some poems or comments may contain strong language, explicit sexual references, or other adult material, and should supervise their children appropriately. If you are posting a poem, keep in mind that the same topics that are highly controversial in most social circles will probably receive a similar response here as well.

What if I don't get any comments?
There could be several reasons for the lack of comments. Most likely it is because the group is following the old rule: "If you can't say nothin' nice, don't say nothin' at all." The readers might not have understood your poem or liked it. Sometimes posts are ignored because of too much bad spelling, grammar or punctuation, which can distract the reader from the content of the poem and make it frustrating to get through.

  • Check your post again; look for typos, correct any errors that you find, and repost it in a few days with the note that it has been revised.
  • It is an (until now) unspoken rule, though, that it is best to read the group for a few days, contribute some comments of your own, then post your poem once people have noticed you and gotten to know you. Many readers are more comfortable commenting when they've seen you around for awhile and know that you are interested in what they have to say.
  • Also, consider the length of your post. Since there are many poems posted every day, a shorter work is more likely to receive comments.

Should I respond to the comments I receive?
Definitely! Even if you don't agree with the comment, it is a courtesy to make a brief response to show you appreciated the time taken to read and reply to your poem. If you repeatedly do not respond to comments on your work, you may find that readers stop commenting altogether.

All the replies to my poem are mean / everyone is just basically saying my poetry sucks / no one ever says anything nice about my poetry. Why, and what should I do?
First of all, step back and take a good look at your post. Does it have a lot of typographical errors, misspellings, bad punctuation or grammar? If it does, make the corrections and repost with a note that you've cleaned up the errors. You can find some basic information about grammar and punctuation at GrammarBook. A misspelling entered at will often suggest alternatives. The Research page has some further links to tips on writing and style.

If there's nothing (to you) obviously wrong with your poem, re-read the comments. Look behind the words that you felt insulted by. If there are "mean" words or insults, skip over them and read the rest. Most likely the reader is challenging you to look at your poem in a different way. Look for cliches in your poem. Look for words or images that you've used before, or have read before. Try to find a new way to express yourself in your poem. Look at the subject matter - has it been written about before? How many other poems have you read on the same subject? Maybe you are trampling over old ground and need to try something completely different.

Essentially, keep an open mind. Beginning writers are sometimes taken aback by the negative tenor of comments on this group. Keep in mind that there are some very experienced poets here, and that they may be very forthright in expressing their opinion of what they deem to be an immature work. They very likely will not be as kindly as a friend, relative or English teacher. But they will be honest; and if you're serious about improving, their criticism will very likely set you on the right path. The archive covers some of these points in more detail.

I'm not a good speller / good at grammar / good at punctuation. Can I still post?

Spelin Errer
by Jerry H. Jenkins
[originally published in ECHOES Magazine]

The editor read, with his brow in a furrow,
the poem that wrote of a donkey as "burrow".
Rejecting this error of spelling and fact,
he asked if the author would clean up his act.
"OK, OK, so I added a W.
Tell me, O Editor - why should that trouble you?"
Editor's answer made echoes resound:
"You don't know your ass from a hole in the ground."

To answer the question: Yes, but you can expect comments about your skills or the lack thereof. If you are serious about poetry, invest as much time as possible in learning those basic writing skills. It can be very difficult for readers to get past the errors to the message or meaning of your poem, so you may not receive any constructive comments beyond basic English pointers. If you have a spelling checker, use it when you post.

I'm just writing for the fun of it and I don't really want any comments. Can I still post here?
Keep in mind that the group was created for comments on poetry, so you will more than likely receive them whether you want them or not. There are other poetry-oriented newsgroups where "pleasure reading" has more emphasis than critique, so you may be more comfortable posting to that sort of group. The Research page has some suggested web-based forums.

Can I promote my website / e-book on AAPC?
Yes, but it would be good manners (and might encourage more visits) if you were to give a couple of examples of your work and not just expect people to visit "blind".

When and how should I comment on other people's posts?
All posts are open to comments. Feel free to point out what specifically you liked about the poem: what lines, images, words did you find particularly interesting or captivating? At the same time, you can also point out any changes you feel might enhance the poem. If you feel a word in a certain place is awkward, feel free to comment on it and suggest a suitable replacement word if you can. It isn't necessary to give a detailed commentary on each poem, though; in general, the poet will appreciate knowing you read the poem, so a few words to indicate you read and enjoyed it are always nice.

Is it ok to email my comments directly to the poet?
This is usually a matter of personal preference. If you have become familiar with the poet through other posts to the newsgroup, it is generally acceptable. If you do not know the person, they may ignore your email, so it is preferable to post to the group.

Can I rewrite someone's poem for them?
Some poets may appreciate the effort of a rewrite from a fellow poet, but some may not. Rewriting sections or giving comments on specific lines are usually the most welcome. If you feel you know the poet well and understand his or her intent with the poem, you might venture a rewrite; but keep in mind that the poet may not feel comfortable with someone else "taking over" their work.

If someone writes a poem about incest or abuse, should I be worried about them?
A poem is not always about the writer. It may be expressing personal opinion or observation. Do not jump to the conclusion that the writer is experiencing / has experienced the situation that is described in the poem.

Should I quote the entire poem or message I'm responding to in my post?
Many other readers appreciate it when someone quotes the message or poem, because not all posts show up on all servers all the time. Do try to keep the volume of quoted material to around 20% of your message. For example, if you're responding to a long thread (discussion), delete the material that is not part of what you are responding to. This also helps readers understand what you are commenting on. As for poems, it's OK to quote the entire poem, unless it is unusually long, in which case you could quote only the parts on which you are commenting.

I think all poetry is personal and comes from the heart and soul of the poet, and it is wrong to criticize it.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. However, the group is based on giving comments on poetry, so even the most personal of poems will receive comments and /or criticism. If you are only interested in reading poetry for fun, or only want to post your poems for others to read and enjoy, there are other newsgroups and websites devoted to that purpose. Check out the other workshops section on the Research page - you may find something there.

Can I post someone else's poem for discussion?
Yes, but be sure to name the poet, and if it is a published work, the anthology or book where you found it.

What is considered "off-topic"?
Poets by their nature seem to enjoy tangents. You'll see a lot of threads beginning with a poem and going off in a sometimes bizarre, completely unrelated direction. By and large, keep your original posts (not part of an existing thread) limited to your own poetry, or questions about poetry.

Can you help me find a poem?
Sometimes. If you are looking for a famous poem, using one of the major search engines, such as Google, Yahoo or AltaVista, is recommended before posting to the group. You can type in a line or two of the poem, in quotation marks, into the search field at a search engine web site and usually get results pointing to pages containing the poem. If you have already tried that at several search engines with no luck, the group may be able to help you locate a more obscure poet or reference.

Can you explain a famous poem to me?
Again, sometimes; it depends on how you ask and who you are. If you are a regular contributor, you will most likely receive honest opinions or interpretations to help you. But don't expect to get a sympathetic response if you're trying to get out of a homework assignment.

My post hasn't shown up yet. What do I do?
Each ISP's news server is different. Your post may not show up immediately, or even up to five or ten minutes after you sent it. The best thing to do is wait. If you are really uncertain, go to Google - and enter the header of your post. If the post is not archived there, then you can safely assume it did not arrive at its destination, and you can repost it. Just in case, include a note such as "This didn't show up on my server, sorry if this is a duplicate" so others will know you're not "spamming" the newsgroup with your poem.

Keep in mind that there's no central server for newsgroups. Messages are passed from one server to another in a haphazard way, arriving at different times and sometimes not at all. Most local ISP's and some national ones have poor news servers. An ISP with a good server is more likely to propagate your post widely, and to receive most posts from others. If you routinely notice that others are responding to posts that you don't see, chances are some others aren't seeing your posts as well. You may want to choose a new ISP or get an account on a dedicated news server such as Giganews or the free public News Server at DFN-CIS.

What's the best newsreader?
In the opinion of many regulars, Forte Agent is among the best commercial newsreaders for Windows. It can be time consuming and difficult to learn and set up, though. A pared down, freeware version called Free Agent used to be available - but seemingly no longer. For more information, visit Forte Inc

There's a web-based newsreader at Google. Note, though, that some posters specify that their messages not be archived, so their posts will not appear through a web-based newsreader.

The newsreaders provided with Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator are simple to use with your ISP's news server.

If you suspect that you are not receiving the same posts as other group members, you may want to subscribe to an independent dedicated news service like Giganews, or try the free public News Server at DFN-CIS.

What is a troll? What do I do about them?
A troll is an inflammatory, controversial message posted with the intent of causing an argument or " flame war" (ongoing exchange of insulting, inflammatory posts). The term also applies to the person making said post. To check out the psychology of trolls, try or the anti-troll-faq.

The best response is no response. Trolls are looking to get people riled up; if you ignore them, they'll usually go away. If a post is particularly offensive or insulting, you may want to consider taking action with the poster's ISP. Keep in mind, though, that the "professional" trolls know all the tricks of hiding their identity over the internet, so you may be in for a few days of intense research in order to identify them. A detailed guide to tracking down the sender of a particular email or post can be found at

What can I do about writer's block?
The jury is still out on this one. Probably the best course of action is to put down the pen for a while and start reading. Absorb the widest variety of poetry possible; visit the public library and check out the classics, as well as some modern anthologies. Reading as much poetry as you can will probably help not only with writer's block, but with your poetry skills as well.

What on-line references for writers would you recommend?
The ones on the Research Page.