I just wanted to thank you all again for your supportive and insightful comments on these posts. I'm glad that this situation has prompted futher discussions about the ethics of contests and the viability of alternatives--starting your own press, publishing collectives, publishing on demand, micro presses, etc. It's a rich and necessary dialogue, and while it's a conversation that has been happening on different channels for a while, the fact that it is happening so passionately here and now indicates to me that more and more poets need to examine the alternatives and to question their own belief systems about what constitutes "real poetry" and how we as poets get validated. (If I knew how to link to these discussions, I would, but Reb Livingston, Collin Kelley, and Barbara Jane Reyes are having very interesting conversations on their blogs, to name just a few that I've found.)
That said, I also wanted to thank the poets who actually contacted the press itself to ask for their side of the story. It's only fair that we each have our turn, and an audience for that turn, which is why I posted Robert Wynne's rebuttal on my blog. At this point, I realize that it is what it is. They have their version, and I guess they feel justified in breaking a contract over what they acknowledge was just a layout disagreement. And they seem to think there's nothing wrong in breaking that contract and then maintaining that they still own the rights to that work. Or in trying to get the author to pay them off to get those rights back. They're going to say I was "unreasonable and abusive," just like they told me last year's winner was "crazy." They're not going to apologize or try to remedy the situation. And I don't need for them to.
Given what I now know about that press, I'm relieved that my manuscript is out from under them and that it won't be associated with them when it gets released. And whatever you, as new readers of this blog, choose to do with the information that I've given you, and the story I have told, is entirely up to you. Small press, large press, contests or open submission periods, avenues that are conventional or innovative--I wish you luck in finding a space for your poems and in finding the respect that you and your work deserve.