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Poems for the People   -  Poems by the People

Frequently Asked Questions

This page is pretty big (there's a lot of questions - and I never could answer a question with a simple yes or no). I suggest you let the entire page load before you click on any of the links below.

When's the next update?

Sigh. When I'm able to find the time? Okay, I know that's not the answer you want to hear, but it's about as close to the Truth as I can come. When we first opened Passions, way back in December of 1998, I was updating the site every day or two. Then it became every few days, then about once a week. As I write these words, the first week in June of 1999, I'm lucky if I can add poems even once a month.

Why? Simple - as the site has grown, we receive more and more poems every single day. Every one of them has to be checked, for spelling, punctuation, tasteful content, et cetera - and that takes time. Lots of time. Then, when I feel I just have to do an update, it takes a bunch more time to download all the poem pages to the web server. Lots of time. There are, typically, several thousand web pages to move across those skinny little wires - and I usually have to sit at the keyboard a straight 10 to 12 hours to get it all moved across.

I'm not complaining, mind you. I really love this job, and get an immense feeling of satisfaction every time the web site gets a slew of new poems. It's a great feeling. But I also, very much, appreciate everyone's patience. Trust me - there will be an update, and it'll be as soon as I can make it happen!

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Did you get my poem?

Probably. Almost certainly. In five years, and thousands of poems, I don't know of a single instance where a poem was lost. When you submit a poem, three things should happen. One, the system mails you back a copy of your poem. If you don't get that either the server messed up (hey, it can happen) or you entered the wrong email address. That's the time you should resubmit your poem.

The second thing that happens is that a copy of the form you filled out is saved on the Unix web server, in a special database file. I upload that file to my local PC every morning, just to make sure I have it if the server decides to skip out to Mexico or something (hey, it can happen). The third thing that happens is that the web server emails me a copy of your poem, usually within seconds of the time you've submitted it. That gives me a backup to the data file. It's probably not a fool-proof system, but there's enough redundancy built in to make it very unlikely I'll ever lose a poem. I hope.

For a long time, every time someone emailed me to ask if I'd received their poems, I would take the time to look through my email folders and assure them it had arrived. Unfortunately, that took a lot of time. When I look at an email folder, all I really see is the subject line (which all say "Poem Submission") and the sender (which is the "Last Name" field you filled in on the form). Very often, the only way I could find a person's poem was to read through all of them within a given period. Ouch.

I don't do that any more. I can't, not when we're getting SO many poems every day.

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Why didn't my poem get posted?

First, there's a good possibility is just hasn't been posted yet. Look at the date of the last poems posted and it will give you an excellent idea of where I'm at in the submission list. If your poem was sent after the date of the last posted poems, then yours is still waiting. If it really looks like your poem hasn't been posted, there are a couple of reasons that might happen.

* I don't post poems that I think are in bad taste. Yea, I know that's pretty subjective, and I've heard all the arguments about censorship. But Passions is kind of like my home. I love it when people come into my living room to visit, and I think of all our visitors as personal friends. I know that sounds like a cliche, but it's nonetheless true. Still, there are some things no one will take off a friend, some things that just aren't suitable to bring into my living room. Especially when I also have a lot of young people visiting my home.

Like what? We have a section for erotica, and there's a lot of really excellent poetry there. I'm not a prude. But I won't post poems that are little more than descriptions of lurid sex, either. There are places for those, but Passions isn't one of them. I also won't post poems that are pure blood and guts. Same reasoning. Finally, for several months now, I've avoided posting any poems that seem to glorify suicide. While I try to avoid moral judgments, I think people drawn to self-destruction need help, not encouragement. And, yes, you'll find exceptions to all of these rules. Hell, I don't even believe in rules - but I recognize that the alternative is much worse.

It's highly unlikely, though, that a poem will be skipped because of poor taste. In seven months and thousands of poems, there have been no more than a handful of such instances.

* The most likely reason a poem won't be posted is simply because it would take too much of my time to correct all the errors in it. I'm not an English teacher (though I do get help from a very lovely one), but I try very hard to keep Passions a fairly literate place to visit. I'm not perfect, of course, and I'm sure you'll find a few misspelled words here and there. But I try.

Every poem that comes through the door gets checked for errors. A lot of that is now automated and doesn't take a lot of my time. Spell checks, for example. Taking extra spaces out of a poem or description. That kind of thing. But, unfortunately, the most common errors are the ones a computer just can't fix for me. A computer doesn't know the difference between it's and its or they're and there or your and you're. And there are an amazing number of people who abbreviate you as u, or don't bother to use apostrophes in their contractions. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

I will not post a poem with known errors. So I fix them. Which is one of the reasons I never seem to be able to keep up with all the poems submitted. (Writing very long-winded explanations is probably another good reason.)   Unfortunately, if someone submits a poem with a whole lot of such errors, I simply cannot take the time to rewrite the whole poem for them. I used to do that, but I just can't any longer. So if you've had a poem that didn't get posted, that's a very likely thing to look for. And the solution is simple: correct your errors, at least as best you can, and resubmit it.

* Another possible reason a poem might not be posted is because of the description that accompanies every poem on the web site. And, yea, I do mean every poem. I once received a submission from someone who wrote, "I do not choose to fill this out." That poem didn't get posted. More often, I'll find descriptions that say the poem speaks for itself, and those don't get posted on the site either. The descriptions are an integral part of the web site, right or wrong, and if your poem isn't accompanied by a suitable one, it simply won't get posted. Saying your poem "is about love" just won't be enough. There's a page off the Submit form where you can read a lot more about what constitutes a suitable description. If you think one of your poems wasn't posted because of this - write a description and resubmit.

* I also try very hard not to have any one poet dominate a particular section. What's that mean? The poems are organized by dates, right? If you send me five poems on the same date, all on the same subject, that means the poetry menu for that section will have your name five times in a row. That's what I mean by dominating a section. So, I'm probably not going to post all of your poems. I'll post two at the most, probably only one. What I will do, and do all the time, is move your poems around a bit. Instead of putting them all in the Love category, for example, I try to move one into the Friends & Lovers section under the Love category. Things like that. But when I absolutely can't justify moving the poems, when there are more than one or two that would be posted back to back, then I just try to pick the best of the lot and post that one. Solution? Simply resubmit. When it comes in on a different date, there won't be the same problem.

* There is one other, final possible reason a poem may fail to get posted. It doesn't happen very often, even less frequently I think than poems in bad taste. But it does happen.

I don't think anyone would be surprised to hear that I don't post poems where the first line is Roses are red and violets are blue. That's an oversimplification, of course, but a good example of what is called a trite poem. I don't pretend to be an expert on poetry (and don't believe such a thing exists), so I try very hard to not judge a poem, either on technique or content. But I simply can't bring myself to post a poem that spends 20 lines saying the same thing over and over, usually the same thing a thousand other poems have said. I can't really give you a good definition of trite (and a great poet can write a trite poem that is still worth reading!), but we all know it when we see it. And blatant cases of it simply won't get posted.

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Does it cost anything to send a poem or greeting card?
Why is there advertising posted with the poems?

Two very related questions, so we'll answer them together. No, it doesn't cost anything to send a poem or greeting card, nor does it cost anything to submit your own poetry. Our newsletter is Free, the notifications we send when the site is updated our free. None of this has ever has cost anything. None of it ever will.

We didn't have advertising for the first several months we were live. Those of you who know me, or have perhaps have read my bio, know that I didn't put up Passions in order to make money. I'm semi-retired, and the business I owned for over a decade before moving back to Michigan was fairly successful. My life is pretty simple, and I like it that way.

The advertising is there for two reasons. First, it helps pay for the web site. A small web site really doesn't cost much, but a more popular web site has to pay extra for the bandwidth it uses. As we've grown, the cost of running the web site has grown. It's not really a burden, by any means, but it could become an issue if we continue with our rapid rate of growth. I like to plan ahead. The advertising helps pay for our bandwidth, and theoretically the income should just about keep pace with our continued growth.

The second reason we run advertising is because we want the ability to run ads on the Poetry Network - so our poets can make a couple of bucks. But that, of course, is another whole question...

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Why are the Greeting Cards really, really hard to read?

They're not for most people. But of course that doesn't much help you, does it?

There are two issues. First, the Greeting Cards were designed for full color computers. They won't look as good if you're set for only 256 colors, which is the Windows default on many machines. They'll look down-right ugly at only 16 colors (as will most of the WWW). How you can change your setting will depend on your computer and operating system, but most computers will probably support True Color. Check with your documentation, or with a friend if you don't know how to change the settings.

But there's another problem, too, one that is far more widespread. It's called AOL.

AOL has a whole lot of people on their network, so they have put a few tricks into place to make it faster. For example, they cache just about everything their users see on the Internet. If you're on AOL, there's a real good chance this page you're reading came off the AOL proxy server instead of directly off my web server. That's because the last time someone from AOL was here, their system saved a copy of the page on the AOL server. Saves them the time of asking for it again. Fortunately, their caching system is pretty smart and doesn't cause a lot of problems.

What they do with graphics, however, isn't quite so smart. They keep a copy of all the graphics on their server, too, but they don't stop there. They want those graphics to load for you just as quickly as possible. And that's cool. But the way they try to accomplish that isn't so cool. Before they store a copy on their server, they compress the images to a smaller size. Smaller graphics, smaller files, faster load times. Except compressing the graphics means lost quality. And that is why the Greeting Cards can look blurry to a lot of AOL users. Here's a direct quotation from the AOL literature:

However, there have been problems with JPEG images, particularly for AOL
members. If a member has graphics compression turned "on" on an AOL internal
browser (the default setting), some JPEG images look fuzzy or have foreign colors
and shapes contained within the image. For more information about the nature of this
problem -- as well as the probable solution -- visit the Webmaster Info web site at
keyword: Webmaster Info, or http://webmaster.info.aol.com.

That's the bad news. The good news is that it's very, very easy for you to fix it.

  1. Log onto AOL and click on the icon that says "My AOL" at the top of the screen.
  2. Click on "Preferences Guide."
  3. If you're using AOL 3.x the next thing to click on will be labeled "The Web." If you're on AOL 4.x, it will be labeled "WWW."
  4. Now click on "Web Graphics."
  5. Now un-click the "Use Compressed Graphics" option to disable it.
  6. Finally, you must close AOL for the changes to take effect. When you restart AOL, all your web images should be crisp and clear (you might also have to clear your local cache, so keep reading).

If the Greeting Cards still look blurry after you've followed the steps above, it's probably because of your local browser caching things (rather than AOL doing it). I don't have access to all of AOL's many browsers, but this should work with most of the newer ones.

  1. At the top of your browser, click on the "View" menu option.
  2. Then click on "Options." When that window opens, click on "Advanced," then on "Temporary Internet Files." (which is your cache).
  3. Click on "Settings," then click on "Empty Folder." That should clear out your cache, and force the browser to load new (not blurry!) images.

I hope these suggestions will solve the problem for you. I'm not on AOL, so it's very difficult for me to test these or find any other possible problems.

There's one last thing you should be aware of, though. And this is true of ALL the many greeting card sights on the Internet. Just because the card is blurry for you, that doesn't mean it will be blurry to the person you send it to. They may have more colors, or not be on AOL. Unfortunately, the flip side of that is also true. Just because the card looks good to you, that doesn't guarantee that the recipient will see it the same way.  Isn't the Web just wonderful?

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Could someone steal my poem?

Well, yes and no. Obviously, any time you show your poem to someone, there's the possibility that person will take it and claim they wrote it. And it doesn't matter if you post it on the Internet or publish it in a book or magazine, the danger is the same. The only real way to protect your work is to hide it in a drawer and never let anyone read it. Of course, that kind of defeats our whole purpose for writing, doesn't it?

"Wait," you say! "Isn't a book or magazine different? Don't the copyright laws protect my work then?"

Ah, now that is an entirely different question. Instead of asking if your poem can be stolen, you're now asking what protection you have if it is stolen. And that, my friend, is an excellent question.

Yes, if you publish your poem in a book or magazine, it will be protected by international copyright laws and treaties. But, no, there really isn't much difference between that and publishing your poem on the Internet. To understand why that's true, and to understand what the small difference is, we need to talk about copyrights. I'm going to give you some really good links to follow in a minute, links that will tell you everything you want to know about copyright short of going to law school. But first, I'm going to give you a crash course in the basics - which is really all that most people will want.

What is copyright? Copyright is a form of intellectual property law. It basically says that if you create certain things, you own them. What things? Works of literature, drama, music, poetry (of course!), software, and even architecture. If doesn't protect facts, ideas, systems, methods of operation, words, or even phrases. You probably can't, for example, get a copyright on the title of your poem (at least generally), but you certainly can get one on the poem itself. In fact - you already have one!

It's true. Your work falls under copyright protection the very instant it is created and fixed in a tangible form (meaning it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine). What that means is that if you wrote it on paper, it is tangible and protected. If you entered into your computer, it is tangible and protected. The only thing you need to do to get a copyright is to create an original work (and the term original in interpreted by the courts very, very liberally).

That's the good news. The bad news is that a copyright by itself isn't always enough. Let's say you write a poem and stick it in that drawer we were talking about earlier. Your worst enemy sneaks into your house, copies the poem, publishes it as their own, and becomes rich and famous overnight. Yes, your poem is protected by copyright laws. But you're probably going to have a heck of time proving you wrote the poem first.

There are basically three steps to protecting yourself. The first one, as we talked about, is to simply create the work in a tangible form. You now have a copyright. The second step is to put a copyright notice on your work, along with the date and your name. This does two things. The notice provides possible legal benefits should you go to court, and of course the date and name help to establish your rights to the protection. The third step in the process is to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

(While this discussion revolves around American laws and entities - since that is what I know - you should find the process very, very similar in most countries. Over 100 countries have agreed, via treaty, to recognize each other's copyrights, and you'll find a list of those in the links below.)

Let's talk about those last two steps in terms of how they actually help to protect you. If someone steals your poem and you have to take them to court, the strongest document you can produce is the certificate sent to you by the U.S. Copyright Office. It almost guarantees you will win the case (and the only reason I say "almost" is because we all know about American juries). The second strongest document you could produce would be a published version of the work that pre-dates any such publication by the other person. And yes - that includes publication on the Internet!

At Passions in Poetry, we try very hard to protect your rights. Every poem that is submitted to us is kept on file, with the original date of submission. That same date is published on the menu that takes you to a poem. At the bottom of every single poem on the site, you will find a copyright notice, not in our name, but in the author's name. The only thing we don't do, that would likely be done by a book or magazine publisher, is apply for a certificate of copyright at the U.S. Copyright Office. Indeed, many publishers of anthologies (which is what Passions is) won't copyright the individual works in a book - because it costs twenty bucks per author. (Multiply that by the thousands of poems we have on the web site, and you can readily see why we don't register the poems).

To summarize, yes, someone could steal your poem. And it doesn't matter where you publish it, that is equally true. But you are protected by international copyright laws and treaties - and that also is true regardless of where you publish.

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Why didn't you notify me?
I didn't get the newsletter?
My friend sent a card/poem and I didn't get it?

These questions all deal with your email address, of course, and there are two possible reasons why there might be problems.

First, and pretty obviously, email won't reach you if I have an incorrect email address for you. Seems pretty simple, but you'd be surprised by how many people mistype their address. The solution is simple: just submit your address again, using the same form.

The other reason for problem is a bit more difficult to explain, but probably accounts for just as many people. Can you spell A-O-L ?

I hate to sound like I'm coming down on AOL, because I'm not. They perform a wonderful service for lots and lots of people. But they do have a tendency to do things just a bit differently than everyone else on the Internet - and sometimes that makes it tough to communicate with them. Here's a technical example: AOL allows DNS records in excess of 512 bytes, which throws off every mail server on the Internet. When our server goes to send an email to AOL, it must do a MX (Mail Exchanger) DNS lookup and when it receives the large record back, it turns around and errors with a "CNAME lookup failed temporarily," placing the mail in a deferred queue (meaning the mail will be delayed for up to a week). Bummer.

Less technical? AOL allows spaces in the email address and no one else on the Internet (including the mail servers) can handle that. AOL users can email each other without adding the "aol.com" part of their address, get into the habit of doing that, and forget that the rest of the Internet needs that information. AOL members can control who'll they receive mail from (and often do so through neglect). The list goes on and on.

If you're on AOL and not receiving email from us (or others on the Internet), it's probably because our mail server, or any one of the dozens of mail servers between us and you, can't talk to the AOL mail server. Happens a lot.

Fortunately, the solution is pretty simple. Get yourself a free email address and use that to communicate with us (and the rest of the non-AOL world). You can read our short article on Free Email for more information.

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Is that it?

I'll be adding to our FAQ on a fairly regular basis. There are still a lot of things to address, and I seem to get new questions in the mail every day. If you didn't find an answer here to your question, feel free to write me. Yours might just be the next one added here!

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