I had quite a few poems published this year. In fact it was my best year ever. And all of my poems were published anonymously (minus half a dozen or so). Why did I do this, you ask?
In 2014 I embarked on an anonymous adventure, publishing some poetry chapbooks with my super small press Twenty-Four Hours. We did 4 books between then and now, each free of identity-confirming information such as author names, biographies, photos, or anything else that would give away the gender, race, or age of the poet. The reasons were multi-fold. It would take away the puffery of an author bio and force the reader (and the writer) to consider the poems themselves, not the previous accomplishments of the writer. It would also take away any preconceived notions of what a particular work a writer of a certain gender, a certain race, or a certain age is “supposed” to produce. These were a smashing success and the philosophical ideas behind them resonated with many people.
So around this time in 2016, a few weeks shy of Christmas, I decided to make the next logical step and use myself as a test subject. I was going to publish all of my work anonymously.
I had rules. I would query the editors of literary magazines, all of them, the same way. Whether it was Black Warrior Review, or Tin House, or something a guy photocopied in his basement, all editors got the same query.
I also created an artist bio for Anonymous. “From the Ancient Sumerian Debate Between Fish and Bird to the modern-day hacktivist group, anonymous authorship has had a long history in cultures throughout the world.” Along with this, I chose a royalty-free public domain author photo. It’s the one that accompanies this article: a person standing on a beach wearing a hoodie, turned away from the camera so we can’t see his or her gender, race, or age.
I was a little nervous at first, especially when poems started getting picked up. 2016 had been a pretty bang-up year and I wanted to continue the success. What the hell did I do? I stuck to my guns. By the way, this anonymity also meant that I couldn’t promote my work on social media or anywhere else.
As I said in the beginning, there were a few lit mags that wouldn’t let me go the anonymous route, so I had use my real name. Once I used the name Jnonymous.
My big wish for the year was that this forced humility and identity suppression would bear fruit in other parts of my life, but that didn’t happen like I had hoped. I still got called out a few times by my loved ones for constantly focusing on my writing and letting chores and quality time with them fall by the wayside. Damn.
I did get the big win, though and I still hope that somewhere down the line, these seeds will bear fruit—and author anonymity will explode across the literary world of the internet.
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Josh Medsker’s poetry has appeared in many literary magazines and websites, including: Red Savina Review, Contemporary American Voices, Penmen Review, Into the Void UK, and Antarctica Journal. www.joshmedsker.com