Here's a question for everyone: Should poetry mags have contributors' notes? You know, those little things in the back pages that say, "So-and-so's poetry has appeared here, here, and here; he/she teaches at the College of Wherever and lives with her/his two dogs."
I ask because neither of the two journals I'm currently reading (The Hat and New American Writing) have them, and I'm wondering if this is a trend or something.
I've always found such notes vaguely irritating and feel like a moron on the few occasions I'm called upon to compose one. But I'll grant that they do serve a few purposes. They tell you something about a new writer you might like. They tell you where else you can find that writer's work. They give you some context for what's otherwise a set of disembodied texts. (Ron made this point a few weeks ago.) They can tell you a biographical fact that illuminates the work. They show you a web of connections between people in a journal that can explain why Poet X and Poet Y are next to each other.
And I can think of just as many reasons why they're awful. They all sound the same. They're show-offy. They're like posting a resume at the end of an aria. They emphasize the most crass and careerist aspects of being a poet (I went to school at the right places, publish in all the right places, and have a better job than you; I went to the same school all the other people in this magazine did and that's why we're being published together).
All these apply, of course, to the conventional bio note. There's the subgenre of the funny bio note, of which SHAMPOO is one of the more entertaining examples; these can keep the whole enterprise from taking itself too seriously, or even act as an extension of the poem.
So is the note on its way out? Is dropping contributors' notes an egalitarian act? a demand to focus on the text itself? Or does it hide the matrix--fetishizing publication even further by erasing the way the authors got there?