One of the most annoying aspects of striving to be a professional (ie: paid, published) poet is that sharing my unpublished work with others--including handing out or emailing individual copies of unpublished poems and even posting unpublished poems on my own or someone else's blog--is considered to be "publishing" by publishers. This kind of "publishing" carries the same weight with publishers as would publication by a major publishing house. By engaging in such "publishing," I would be forfeiting "first rights" to the work, making the work technically only available for further publishing as a much less valuable and much less marketable "reprint." This is why I only list the titles and brief descriptions of my unpublished works and perhaps what inspired them.
Still, if one is careful, one can share (technically "publish") a poem with a small number of individuals deemed trustworthy enough to keep the sharing of the work and the work itself confidential and still be able to sell first rights. For example, I have written dozens of love poems to my honey over the years. To date, only she and I have read them. Technically, once I gave her the poems, they were "published." However, I would run into no issues marketing a collection of them to any publisher, were I inclined to do so.
So, it is not without some irony that I announce the composition of "Copyright 20__" which was inspired by a trusted relative choosing to wait for an autographed copy of my published work rather than accept an advance copy of my unpublished work. The message of the poem is simple if stark: wait and you could be dead by then.
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