My friend & fellow poet Daniel Laxer wrote me and Aimee Davidson to say,
I was just skimming your respective blogs, and I couldn't help but wonder, do you not worry that the work you put up on your blogs will get stolen? I mean, there's some good stuff there. And I'd thought about putting my poems up on the net. But I don't want to see them published elsewhere under someone else's name. Doesn't that thought worry you?
The complete poems I post on my blog (on Sky of Ink, Jonah) have already been published elsewhere. Of course, these poems can now be easily lifted and/or altered in some way and republished under someone else's name, but the same thing could also be done to poems published in any of a number of online journals... so they are about as protected as that.
I don't put unpublished poems on my blog, but only a little due to the concern you mention. The main reason is that once they're on the blog they're eminently Googlable, and any review considering publishing one of them could simply type in a few words from the poem, and quickly find it. Most literary reviews, for all their limited readership & distribution, want to be THE FIRST IN THE UNIVERSE to publish any given poem. Since I still seek the validation of being published by said reviews, I figure it's better to be safe than sorry.
At the same time I sometimes wonder about my self-imposed gag order. Especially when tempted to put up a recent poem, talk about the writing of it, etc. How many readers, after all, does my blog get? (From what I see, the hit total is impressive, but the readership, a worthy few...) Does printing here constitute publishing? Do harried review editors even have the time to BOTHER googling to find a poem in a blog? All open questions. I see people like Aimee putting drafts of poems for feedback and the immediate pleasure of reaching out to someone out there in the cosmos, and I can't help feeling, what the hell? Why not?
Someday, who knows, I may change my tack.
Poetry in this culture remains an exercise in obscurity. It will never generate the glitz or $$$ that make copyright infringement sexy. That obscurity, I'd say, is its greatest protection.