Oprah wants to know… what’s your story?

2 Feb

Come on, come all, Oprah is calling for a poetry magazine edited by Maria Shriver! Somehow this must all make sense, right?

This is the actual advertisement, pulled from here if you so choose. But make sure to read the fine print first! Numbers 4 and 5, which state that

All Submissions shall become the property of Harpo, may be edited for length, clarity and/or functionality, will not be subject to any obligation of confidentiality… [and] 5. Harpo shall exclusively own all known or later existing rights to the Submissions worldwide with the unrestricted right to use the Submissions for any purpose in all media now known or hereafter discovered without compensation to the provider of such Submissions.

Bold added by me, of course.

So, let me get this straight Oprah. You’re putting together a poetry issue because April is “Poetry Month” and having Maria Shriver edit it because…. well, why not? Any submissions you do take can never be published again and might be changed up a bit to make more sense to the general audience. So no Poet who actually cares about what they’re writing would, in their right mind, submit to this…


*Ahem* or as Miley would say *Uh-em* (seriously, she does, I need to learn to cut videos).

Oh wait, what if you don’t know how to write poetry. What should you do? How can you submit to Oprah? WE ALL MUST SUBMIT TO OPRAH!

No worries, Oprah has that covered too! Here‘s a handy link to the following information. In a post cleverly titled, “How to Write Poetry.”

Now, I have to admit, these are some fairly basic writing prompts, which can be fun sometimes to use, AND if a “housewife” were to read this and become inspired and write a little something and become empowered that’s great! However, all I know so far about this Poetry Themed issue is that they will be featuring the poetry of Demi Moore and Mike Tyson and not a single Poet, like professional (notice that capital “P”) is involved.

Would you put together a Science issue without having one Scientist? Would you call for everyone to do their own science experiments and send in pictures?

I guess the real issue is, they might. Why does Oprah feel the need to treat her audience this way? In all fairness, saying she is “talking down to them/us” is putting it lightly.

What do you think?


14 Responses to “Oprah wants to know… what’s your story?”

  1. Taylor February 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    I’m still depressed that Pres. Obama did such a horrible job in selecting Phil Levine to deliver his inaugural poem. Apparently, his invitation to compose and recite a poem was inadvertently delivered to Elizabeth Alexander. Whoops!

    In respect to the Oprah poetry mania:
    We should probably organize some sort a satiric poetry protest submission drive. Composing poems that appear to be profound and amazing but, in reality, say nothing. Then when the magazine comes out we can openly mock any of the horrid, ineffectual (or inaffectual?) poems that we (collectively) got through that Harpo has to now forever claim as their “own.” We could probably still “publish” our own poems on a website that mocks the journal as long as we do so for the sake of parody and satire. This is a good idea. All of the above.

    • redshana February 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

      My main issue is I would actually applaud it if I felt like it did anything for the community… instead, I feel like she’s talking down to people and that doesn’t really encourage anything.

      And sure, we can submit things we don’t care about but if we get in I still think it only hurts poetry in the long run… unless we got some Alexander Pope like badassery to be turning in. Lay me some 21st “Rape of the Lock” kinda shit.. then we’ll be talking!

      • Taylor February 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

        Is Oprah (or perhaps, more likely, her ghostwriters) talking down to or potentially underestimating the cultural sophistication of her audience?

        One of two things would have to be true:
        (1) That Oprah, herself, knows and reads “good” poetry and/or knows something more substantial about how to approach the craft of poetry then she is letting on.
        (2) The cultural sophisticated members of her audience would have to be able to recognize the condescension.
        (to condescend is to treat someone as if her intelligence or other faculties are inferior to what they actually are. This leaves open the awkward truth that what is condescending to some will not be condescending to all.)

        They are certainly vetted, but you can read some of the comments made by her audience on the how to write a poem page. That may, to a small degree, inform possible truth (2) listed above.

        (The following should not be read as a “parallel” analogy in this context, but simply an analogy that further clarifies the notion of “condescension.”) Consider the fact that it is condescending to speak to an adult as if they were a child. However, is it condescending to speak to a child as if they were a child? Condescension can ultimately only be defined in terms of the relationship between speaker and listener — I don’t think it can be independently determined outside of that relational dynamic.

        I’m agnostic on the matter, but I skeptical that Oprah is actually “talking down” to her audience.

        (The irony that my didactic tone may be considered condescending to some is not lost on me. lol)

  2. AngryHamster February 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    YESS! a science issue 😀 (actually that’s a really good idea, perhaps the housewives would finally learn (inspired by their great desire to be recognized by Oprah) what “scientific method” and “scientific theory” mean). We should tell Oprah to do this…

    Anyway, I read it (pretty cool, pretty cool 😉 I like the title you picked), and I wanted to .. discuss (I guess). But then, I didn’t want to contaminate your comments section 😉 So here it goes (delete it if you don’t like it, I won’t be offended ;))

    Who is Oprah’s target audience? I always thought it was housewives. If my presumption is correct, why would a serious poet ever submit (or have a desire to submit) to Oprah? Would Oprah (and the housewives) even be interested in “serious” poetry? The fine print is really mean regardless of who submits.
    Since you mentioned science, I asked myself if I (or any of the people I know) would ever consider submitting anything to Oprah. And if they did, what would Oprah’s audience think about a real scientific paper (would they even read it)?
    I’d do it for money ($200 .. I’m poor). It would have to be a watered down version that didn’t have any really valuable ideas in it, written in such way to please the audience (in which case, I would not care if she edited it or prevented me from publishing it again).
    Now, apply that to poetry 😀 and that is the point I was trying to make.

    • redshana February 2, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

      But really? I do think this is the “housewives” audience but why can’t we treat them like literate human beings? I’m sure a bunch of housewives are!
      And I get you on the watered down point, that’s just the point that is so upsetting.
      There ar…e mainstream shows that have real science that is put into layman’s terms without it being horrible, “Mythbusters” is my example, but I don’t think Oprah is even trying to do that.

  3. nikki February 2, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    As usual, you are right and oprah is dumb.

    aka why I’m not a Poet.

    much love!

  4. Jenna February 2, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    Yeah. Doesn’t make much sense, but at least it’s stirring the poetry pot and reminding the larger reading community that poetry didn’t, in fact, die with Eliot. However, I’m not certain that the audience will get a larger sense of poetry’s scope. It is bothersome that they have not, as of yet, involved those who are in the trenches.

    The prompts made my stomach turn.

    • redshana February 2, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

      Yeah, I think the awareness that it will bring doesn’t make up for how it’s going about it. But, maybe it will get more people talking… like this?

      And some of the prompts are pretty bad, but I especially like the one that basically reads “Think of a dream… don’t have one? Make one up, now think about it… now write.”

  5. eileen February 2, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    I read the gawker article you posted on facebook (don’t think you posted it here: http://gawker.com/5749033/are-you-ready-for-demi-moores-poetry ) And what I rolled my eyes at about that was the last bit about how poetry might not be the best way to encourage un-reading Americans to read. And I was like DUH gawkwer! Oprah’s not encouraging un-reading Americans to read, she’s encouraging the members of cult-Oprah to read poetry. So go Oprah! If it takes the Maria Shriver edition of a Demi Moore poem to get someone to read a poem then whythefucknot?

    • Jenna February 2, 2011 at 6:54 pm #


    • AngryHamster February 3, 2011 at 12:36 am #

      I disagree.

      First of all, reading is not the same as writing. By doing this, Oprah is not encouraging “un-reading (wtf) Americans” or cult-Oprah to read poetry. She is encouraging them to read crappy poetry, and to produce even crappier poetry that is going to be read by… those who buy and read Oprah’s magazine instead of books.

      Now, I don’t want to stereotype people, but this guy:
      NOT a poet. Whatever he produces, even edited, is not going to be poetry.

      I don’t know what reasons you find to justify oversimplification of everything that is currently happening in the US. I had to read and analyze Whitman and Baudelaire when I was 16. Here it is acceptable to not know who Baudelaire is. I had to be able to differentiate and integrate equations in order to graduate from high school, here it is acceptable to say “Math is hard”. But I have a feeling I am going to turn this into a discussion about consumerism and the general state of the education system in the US. Forgive me. I hope you at least kind of understand what I am trying to say.

      • redshana February 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

        I feel for your general argument Alma, this one magazine issue I think touches on a lot of random things, most of them kinda upsetting.

  6. erin February 8, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    oprah makes my soul cry.

    • redshana February 8, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

      I’m not sure she makes my soul cry, then again, I’m not sure she doesn’t.

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