Authors who commit plagiarism will be banned from further submissions to Rust & Moth. The severity and the transparency of the borrowing will be considered when making a determination of whether plagiarism occurred. We evaluate such matters on a case-by-case basis in close cooperation, when possible, with the original author.

We recognize that not every act of plagiarism is malicious or intentional. But every instance of plagiarism nevertheless demands swift action that prioritizes the rights of the original author.

Derivative Works

Rust & Moth will consider “remixed,” found poetry, and other derivative submissions, but only provided that the poems therein meet the standard of “significant imaginative or intellectual transformation” laid out in the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry. Any poems that borrow significantly from the structure or content of others’ published works will not be considered for publication.

We require that all derivative submissions (including “after” and ekphrastic poems) be accompanied by links to or copies of the source material for comparison.

Artificial Intelligence

Rust & Moth approaches poems generated by artificial intelligence (AI) in much the same way we treat other derivative works. A submitting author who uses AI as a tool must make major contributions to any text generated by an AI and in so doing meet the standard of “significant imaginative or intellectual transformation” as laid out in the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry. We require that partially AI-generated submissions be accompanied by a description of process that includes how an AI was used. These descriptions should include links to source material, clearly delineate human and AI contributions, and be as explicit as possible about the origins of the AI in question.

We will not accept poems generated entirely by AI. Also, if an AI borrows too heavily from a single author (e.g. asking ChatGPT to write a poem in the style of Emily Dickinson), we will reject any downstream work on the grounds of plagiarism.

Publication Rights

By submitting your work, you affirm you are the sole author and maintain all rights for your work. We request that any poems originally published in Rust & Moth be appropriately credited in subsequent collections and reprints. All individual rights revert to authors upon publication.

Rust & Moth typically does not consider previously published material for publication; this includes poems posted on public-facing blogs and social media. However, we are happy to consider poems that have been mishandled by predatory journals; please briefly describe the relevant circumstances in your cover letter.

We reserve the right to nominate works published in Rust & Moth for honors such as the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, etc. Rust & Moth will inform authors of such nominations via email.

Name and Pronoun Changes

Rust & Moth takes a trans-inclusive approach to author names and pronouns. Please feel free to reach out to us with updates to your bio at any time. We will happily update our online records; no documentation is needed or asked for.

Email is best for such requests: expect an initial response within 72 hours during our open reading windows, and up to 4 weeks when we are closed for submissions. Please note that, while we can update any and all website content, it is logistically and financially prohibitive for us to update our print editions after they’ve been finalized with the printer.

Responding to Abusive Behavior

Literary journals are increasingly asked to do what courts, police departments, and universities can’t or won’t: hold abusers accountable for their behavior. Rust & Moth affirms that literary journals and small presses have limited investigative resources, especially when compared to the institutions listed above. However, we also recognize the present-day responsibility that literary journals have to survivors and to the larger literary ecosystem, and so we seek to make our policies on such matters clear and our process as transparent as possible.

Our guiding principle is “trust, then verify.” Trust, because while false claims of sexual misconduct and interpersonal abuse can and do happen, we affirm that these are exceedingly rare (and that survivors often face hellish consequences for speaking out). Accordingly, all such concerns must at a bare minimum be met with empathy and sober consideration. We ask that these conversations begin in good faith over email. (Expect an initial response within 72 hours during our open reading windows, and up to 4 weeks when we are closed for submissions. In the unlikely event that the email gets missed in that time frame, please feel free to follow up via private messages on social media.)

We will then ask the survivor what they would like to have happen. Some survivors may simply want private validation of their concerns, and we will listen to their story and/or help direct them to resources if requested. Other survivors may ask that we remove the work of their abuser from our publication or make a public statement on their behalf. We are more than willing to take these steps given sufficient evidence, and so we wish to be transparent about how we weigh that evidence.

Based on a review of such evidence, Rust & Moth may decide to take the step of removing an offending author’s work. Here, we wish to be clear that conversations surrounding sexual assault and interpersonal abuse are often murky, difficult to navigate, and may involve allegations that can’t be decisively proven. Abusers can destroy evidence, trauma can disrupt the normal processing of episodic memory, witnesses may be hesitant to come forward because of safety concerns, and so on; we will therefore never ask for “perfect” evidence from “perfect survivors.” But we acknowledge that the outcome of this process, absent independent investigation that falls wildly outside the scope of a literary journal, may still involve considerable uncertainty.

In light of this, we have prepared three different general approaches for responding to a given situation.

  1. If we feel that the evidence is compelling – but not overwhelming – we may begin the process of quietly removing an author’s work. In such circumstances, it is our policy to reach out to the accused and give them a chance to respond. We will give notice of this decision to the survivor beforehand and ask for guidance and permission before hitting send. Note that we view this as something that takes place late in the process, and not as the beginning of a protracted conversation between all involved parties. (Mediation is best left to trained professionals and we will not facilitate such conversations.) We will then await a response, make our decision, and then take action within 5 business days of our reaching out to the accused, regardless of whether or not a response is received. If we decide to pull an author’s work in this context, we will typically do so as discreetly as possible, acknowledging that our journal’s investigative resources are limited and that we may have the story wrong, in part or in full.
  2. However, if we find the evidence accompanying a particular accusation to be particularly heinous and unambiguous, we will deplatform without hesitation, and we reserve the right to make brief statements about the situation on social media in accordance with the survivor’s wishes. Such statements will, we hope, be rare, but if we take such action, please know that we reached the decision based on a unanimous vote of our editorial staff. In such cases, no correspondence will be initiated with the accused beforehand; we will simply act. Note that we are far more likely to take such action if the evidence offered includes court documents or other forms of independent vetting. (Please also note that we are not in the habit of making statements about abusive authors we haven’t worked with directly.)
  3. Finally, we acknowledge that there frequently may be situations in which abuse and harm are real but for which there is little or no available evidence. While we can’t take action in such circumstances, we affirm that the absence of evidence doesn’t imply that a story is false; indeed, in this context, it is statistically likely to be true. In such cases, we commit to keep our eyes open for further information about the accused and to take action if new evidence comes to light.

Note that anonymity of the survivor will always be preserved when possible and if desired. Even when relevant names and accusations have already been made public, Rust & Moth will typically continue to refrain from naming involved parties on social media, which is seldom if ever a safe space to work through such issues. Finally, please note that while our website is a living document, our print issues are not. We can update and remove anything we wish from our website, but it is logistically and financially prohibitive for us to update our print editions after they’ve been finalized with the printer.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. In a better world, poets and editors obviously wouldn’t be the ones policing criminal behavior, and it is our hope that systemic and cultural change will make this feel less necessary one day. We wish all of our readers the best and we join you in hoping for a kinder, more nuanced, and less dangerous society.

Hate Speech and Discrimination

Authors who participate in hate speech or who promote discrimination against anyone on the basis of their identity are not welcome in the pages of our magazine, and the framework of “trust, then verify” (see above) also applies here. Note that we will typically not take action against authors due to mere association with controversial platforms or individuals; in such cases, we will only consider the publicly available works or statements of the author themselves. However, if an author chooses to associate with platforms that can be shown to be explicitly in support of targeted violence or organized hate groups, we consider association itself to be a form of hate speech and we will act accordingly.

Trigger warnings

Rust & Moth reserves the right to add editorial trigger warnings before particularly difficult poems. This will be done if a majority of the editorial staff feels that a trigger warning is needed.

We expect that our use of editorial trigger warnings will be rare. Research suggests that trigger warnings are ineffective at reducing anxiety and cultivating resilience; furthermore, they risk reinforcing the idea that trauma is central to a survivor’s identity. That said, we recognize the value of trigger warnings to many in the lit community, and so if a poem is graphic in its description of trauma, we will consider such a warning. Note that we will never publish material that is blatantly prurient or cruel.

Editorial warnings are one thing; relevant trigger warnings requested by authors on their own poems, however, will always be honored. Please indicate upon acceptance of your work if you would like to see it prefaced with a trigger warning, and feel free to reach out to us if you would like to see such warnings added retroactively to work previously published online.