In case you didn't know, a standard way to publish a book of poetry is to submit your manuscript to a contest. One of the most prestigious prizes is Yale Younger Poets (which I am now too old to enter), but no matter what the level of prestige, the system is pretty much the same: you send 50-70 pages of poetry, a check for $25.00 (or thereabouts), and a self-addressed stamped envelope. You then wait six months to a year, at which point you usually get your SASE back with a xeroxed sheet of paper telling you who won. Occasionally in the list of finalists, you'll notice your name, and wonder why they never bothered to tell you that you were a finalist.
A lot of people consider it a racket; there is even an "American poetry watchdog" website that "exposes the fraudulent ‘contest,'" and there is also a Council of Literary Magazines and Presses that has set up rigorous contest-judging guidelines so that there aren't fraudulent contests to expose. Anyway, the whole thing is costly, demoralizing and time-consuming, but it's also how the system works, so I sent my book to half a dozen contests earlier this year.
Here's an email message I got yesterday:
I am writing to congradulate [sic] you on your finalist status in the 2006 Small But Respectable Poetry Press Prize. Please confirm that you have received this email, and that your manuscript is still available for publication. Also, please provide your summer contact information, as we will be expecting a decision from the judge by Labor Day. This is very important: if we cannot contact you within 2-3 days of receiving word from the judge, we will have to give the prize to the runner-up manuscript, so be clear on the best way to reach you.
I forwarded the message to a friend, who wrote back and said, "I don't want to be a wet blanket, just a wet hanky, but shouldn't an editor know how to spell congratulate?" Yeah, it's true, there's a horrible misspelling in the message, but I didn't even notice it at first: I was too busy being mildly optimistic and not the least bit offended that someone out there thinks my work is better than the work of a bunch of other people.
This is by no means a guarantee they'll publish my book, but it's better than getting my SASE back with nothing but a single xeroxed sheet in it.