In order to have my poetry published in a journal or magazine, I was often forced to sign away all rights to that poem for a very low fee. True, the contract often read "first serial rights" or "first American rights", but the market for verse is so limited that once an author signs away even limited rights, the prospects of further publication are remote.
On at least three occasions, I signed away "first serial rights", but the poems were never published.
Another problem is that few reputable competitions will accept verse that has already been published (no matter in how limited a manner) or is "under consideration."
To give poets a better deal all around, seven years ago I established the Tom Howard Poetry Contest, an annual competition that not only offers substantial cash prizes for a very low fee, and asks for no rights except permission to publish online, but also accepts work that has already been published or even won awards in other contests!
Of course, unpublished work is also most welcome.
In fact, the whole idea of the Tom Howard Poetry Contest is to saddle potential entrants with as few rules and restrictions as possible. Thus, there is no restriction on the length of poems that may be submitted; no limits on the number of entries; no special rules for formatting; no boundaries on themes or subject matter (remembering of course that winning poems will be published online); and complete freedom for all genres and styles, including prose poems, storoems, free verse, haiku, sonnets, and you-name-it!
From time to time, print publication (at no cost whatever to the entrant) in a book anthology may be offered for winning and commended poems. But entrants are completely free to accept or reject such offers!
A number of anthologies have already been published, including TRAVELING, ACROSS THE LONG BRIDGE, and our very latest book, SAILING IN THE MIST OF TIME.