For anyone who has not posted poetry on open, un-moderated newsgroups before....
As poets gradually build up a portfolio of published works, along with a valuable network of poet friends, it seems a useful and enjoyable pastime to post on various moderated and unmoderated newsgroups. This article mainly concerns unmoderated Usenet newsgroups, of the kind which are shown in various news/mail programs for offline reading. These poetry newsgroups often start with the prefixes alt. or rec.
If you are wondering why on earth I posted this under the category Action/Adventure - read on...
Unmoderated newsgroups are completely free and open, which means total freedom of speech, right? Wrong! Wrong because whatever some of the less friendly poets/critics say to you, however sarcastic they may become, if you are a published poet wishing to build up and enrich your public profile, you must not respond in kind. Never, ever. You want to be remembered as the poet who wrote a poem that moved people to tears, or made them laugh till they cried - not for saying "eat **** and die" to some pompous poet - who later turned out to be an important ezine editor! Publishers and poetry editors do read newsgroups. So if you value your credibility, proceed with caution.
When you first join these groups, it's a good idea to "lurk" for a while, as many people will tell you. Get to know which poets post the most work, which poets offer constructive criticism and which ones are more likely to offer negative comments to try to get a rise out of someone. Also get to know if there are any ezine editors posting poetry (ezine details sometimes appear in sig files), if your style is a little like theirs, they might be glad to receive a submission of your work and publish some of it online.
You will notice that there are some poets whose style and sense of humour is very much like your own. You can eventually comment on their work and make friends with them. This can lead to sparking ideas off each other and occasional ongoing poetry duets, where each poet takes a turn to add a stanza and a story is built up, getting funnier as it goes along. I have also seen poets write flirtatious love duets. So there is great potential for entertainment as well as learning more about poetry.
When you "de-lurk" and post your first poem, avoid these temptations:
1. Pointedly asking for comments on a poem, especially if you have not yet commented on anyone else's work - this can lead to angry responses and attacks on your poem.
2. Angry comebacks to sarcastic criticism. Ignore any comments which seem like a deliberate attempt to draw you into a flame war - the agitator usually wins (If you really must say something back, try setting up a different email account and using a different identity. Even a different computer, from a different planet. Don't tell anyone I suggested this. This article will self-destruct in one of your earth minutes).
3. Posting four or five poems at once, to draw attention to your work. You will only get responses saying "stop these multiple postings" or "read the FAQ".
4. Cross-posting to other newsgroups, this can make some of the group members think you are only dabbling in their group while being more active in another, or shamelessly self-promoting by shouting your poems to several groups at once.
5. Posting in haste without running your spellchecker - do not be remembered as the poet whose title line said "All of my fellings are in these poems so ples be kind" (this actually happened in one group and caused a thread all about lumberjacks).
If you can plead guilty to any of the above already, lie low for a while. Maybe a long while.
It is a good idea to look at comments on your poems and learn from them, even some of the most caustic criticism may have some gem of advice, which you can weed out of the diatribe. Be diplomatic in your own critiques of work by other poets. Not to entice them to say nice things about your poems, but for the sake of kindness and humanity. After all, you cannot see them, but they are still real people and it is better to make friends than enemies. Be nice, or you'll have to play outside.
Remember that a newsgroup, however big it may be, is not the whole world. If you find yourself becoming irritated with the behaviour of some of the poets on a group, you could quietly flounce off to post on a different group or concentrate on building up your website for a while (and don't be tempted to announce that you are leaving the group, this will tempt others to say "don't come back"). Newsgroups can be addictive fun, for a while, but there are so many other ways to show your work to the world, and more productive reasons to stay up all night.
If you have a book to plug, I would definitely advise that a newspaper is a better place to approach than a newsgroup. The only people I have seen plugging their books on unmoderated newsgroups are people of whom everyone else is terrified.
To conclude, I would say enjoy the newsgroups and do not take other people, or yourself, too seriously. Switch on, log in, knock yourself out.