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
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.