Someone asked me this the other day. My inside answer was, “How many do you have? I have only a few poems, so far, from all that writing, I am a slow, slow writer” and my outside answer was, “If they’re ready, send them out.”

The next question: “Where?”

There are the easy places to check:
The listings at the back of Poets & Writers and The Writer’s Chronicle
New Pages
The Review Review
Submittable (generally fewer listings, but you can subscribe by email, so opportunities appear in your inbox)

Many people use Duotrope (I haven’t in quite a while).

I also have a copy of Poet’s Market, and I should use that more.

Seeing where other people publish is also helpful. Check the acknowledgements sections of books that have poems akin to your poems. In an earlier post, I talked about reading, which is good for inspiration and learning and also submitting. Where are those poems from? After you read poems on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily and the poems that your Facebook friends post links to, check out the journals. Are they possible venues for your poems?

Summer is coming, and the number of pubs that are reading slims way down, but you can search on something like “poetry year-round submission” to find opportunities. Just remember to check the publication—do you like it, and will your work be a good fit?

Often I try to balance things—if I’m on a roll writing, I don’t worry about submitting. If I’m feeling stuck, that’s a good time for me to invest time and energy in sending things out. Anything to keep from feeling like I’m stuck in the mud. Sometimes, my wheels are just spinning: I have a long list of poems, and then I can’t figure out where to send them to, or they all seem like they need more work–they’re too young or  they’re too flat or I thought they were stellar and now I see only flaws (on the plus side, if I can identify what look like flaws, those are good candidates for revision). It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

And advice to myself: Take the opportunity. A gorgeous anthology is coming out, and I do not have any poems in it—not because my work was turned down, but because I didn’t even submit. I probably saw the call, and I probably and thought, “Oh, I don’t write poems about motherhood anymore” (which is not even true). I didn’t try, which is worse than getting a rejection. Read the guidelines, including the fine print. Try. In the meantime, revel in breathtaking poems by Karen Craigo, Beth Ann Fennelly, and others.

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WP_20160507_003 (322x500)Last night, my daughter and I headed over to Hugo House. The building isn’t closing just yet, and the house as a creative community will live on in a temporary location, but this was the official celebration good-bye gathering.

We wrote on the walls, we read what others wrote. We watched David Lasky drawing. I added exclamation points underneath the Viva ZAPP that someone else had scrawled. I wrote in the Winslow room, where I had taken many classes and taught a couple, where I found a publisher at an event called “Finding Your Publisher in the 21st Century.”

I stood in the theater where I had performed my own choreography when the house was New City Theater. I couldn’t get into the kitchen, which had been the dressing room in those days.

I saw some friends and missed many others. Walking through the narrow and very crowded hallways, leaning on the railing down the steep stairs, I came close to crying.

I’m not a good picture taker, but I wanted at least one of the house, and my daughter insisted that I should be in it. Thank you, old house with your ghosts, for being my creative home for so many years. The end of one era means the beginning of the next, and I’m grateful that the heart of Hugo House—its students, its teachers, its community—will keep beating.

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Last Friday I had the pleasure of reading poetry at the monthly RASP series at VALA Arts in Redmond. It was great to be in a gallery surrounded by art both finished and in progress. People’s creative spaces stood in various states of interruption–brushes, canvases, a pair of shoes on the floor (were they to be worn or drawn?). Plus, I was pouring wine for Cloudlift Cellars, which gave introverted me a way to talk to people before I read for them.

After the reading, during the Q&A, emcee Michael Dylan Welch asked me about my reading habits and how they influence my writing. The next day, I started to remember what I forgot to mention, and I thought that I would return to the topic here.

I started with the easy stuff—Verse Daily, Poetry Daily, Cascadia Review, the Poetry Foundation’s poem of the day, and The Writer’s Almanac, which now comes to me in email. What I like about those last two is that they aren’t tied to what’s new—they feature works across a long span of writing and reading time.

Another great resource also comes to me in email: Dennis Caswell’s mailing list. I appreciate the range of poems that Dennis selects—across time, across styles and subjects. Every weekday I have a gift waiting for me. Sometimes it challenges me. Sometimes I don’t get it. I like that—it’s an opportunity for me to expand my understanding. Then, Monday morning also brings the American Life in Poetry poem. And recently I signed up for the daily poem from Rattle.

The websites and emails often introduce me to poets I haven’t read before—and sometimes I’m smitten enough to pick up copies of their books. That’s one influence.

Books! Last Friday, I didn’t really talk about books, but I appreciate getting to explore a collection of someone’s poems, to see how they structured the collection, to hear the conversations in the poems and between the poems, books that I can return to, read over and over again, books that when I’m feel like I’m lost or flailing help me get into the poetry zone.

I also look at the poems that I really like and try to figure out why—specifically. What can I learn from this poem, what is it doing?

But Michael’s question has stayed with me. How could I extend that influence? I could use the first line of a poem that I like as a jumping off point. Or I could write in the style of that poem. In a Dorianne Laux workshop, we wrote in the exact rhythm of a poem. It was not easy (I did not get very far) but it’s a way to open up new routes in the brain.

What are other ways that you learn from a poem? What are your favorite reads?

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The prompt for April 19th was “Tell it like it is, or…” (tell it like it isn’t). In the wake of Trump’s designation as the GOP nominee, the months of speeches, the concerning policies outlined in The New York Times, I’ll share my poem from that day.

It’s Going to Be Coming up Roses

You know roses—not those rambly shrubs
lining the highway, not those roses
with thorns—I’m talking
perfect roses, the kind you buy
for your sweetheart, the kind you give
to make up, to get laid, the roses
in a long white box, big red bow, flowers
you give to the girl you want to love you back,
blooms as red as a kiss, as velvety
soft as a bra coming off. You love roses,
don’t you? We all want roses,
and I’m going to send you dozens of them.
A gross of roses. Not the smelly ones.
Sure, stop to smell the roses, but you
don’t want your rooms reeking like a funeral.
No, I’m going to give you purebred roses,
stems as long as a super model’s legs,
you know Heidi Klum’s legs?
And they’ll last and last
because these are super roses, and there will be plenty—
plenty of roses for everyone,
and when, finally, the petals start
to fall—sure, we’ll have new roses delivered
in no time at all–but the old petals will drop
all over the ground—a red carpet
we walk on everywhere we go.
Don’t worry about the climate
or the bees—the roses are doing great!

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April’s final prompt, again from The Daily Poet, is called “A Life Worth Writing About”: Write down three things you did yesterday, in great detail—sounds and smells, tastes and textures, as well as the visual. Write a poem about one of the things, or write a poem in three sections, with one section for each thing, or braid two or three of the things together.

This is not the end

How has the month gone? Did you write any letter poems? I confess that I’m a little behind, and I’m committed to catching up. If any of the prompts have worked for you, feel free to leave a comment (let me know that I haven’t been blathering on into the darkness—or perhaps I have).

If you’ve checked in during the month, you’ve seen quite a few prompts from The Daily Poet. Many thanks to Two Sylvias Press and to Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano for this book. If you don’t already have a copy, keep it in mind as you write into May.

You can revisit these prompts, check out prompts from previous years, try prompts on Poetic Asides (after the challenge, the prompts remain) and Chris Jarmick’s site POETRYisEVERYTHING site. Visit Tweetspeak and sign up for their newsletter to receive  prompts.

Or write without prompts. Be open. Read as much as you can. Be ready. For me, this is hard sometimes, but when that poem is tugging at your sleeve, when that poem is whispering—or yelling—in your ear, pull over to the side of the road and honor what you’re given.

Be well. Keep writing. Let me know how it goes.

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