It’s Easier When They’re Dead


23 February 2009

Today, I learn about permissions.

I’d hoped to use an excerpt from a Louise Gluck poem for the epigraph to Long For This World.  The author (me) is responsible for securing reprint permissions, so after reading over (three times) a document from my publisher which describes how to do this (I’m still not 100% clear on the legalese) I find the Rights & Permissions page at Farrar Straus and Giroux (Gluck’s publisher) and discover this:

We do not allow editing or re-titling of any selection. Your selection must be reproduced verbatim, as a continuous, uninterrupted excerpt, without alteration, deletion, editing, abridgement or condensation

Well, darn.  The entire poem would be too long for an epigraph.

The part of the permissions-explaining document which I understood very clearly was this:

For poets who have been dead more than 70 years, you do not need permissions.

I have no idea who came up with the 70 years rule (or why); but it’s a good thing I had Rilke (1875-1926) in mind as a backup.


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