After poetry month, what do you do with all those poems?

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.

Submitting: some thoughts and 7 tips

Sorry game board
Yes, when you send out work you might get the “Sorry to say No” rejection–and that isn’t fun. But don’t let it stop you.

A friend asked me about submitting poems, saying that it seemed like I was a prolific submitter.

In the past, I’ve submitted a lot of poems. Lately, not so much. I currently have 11 submissions out, including two that have been out for more than a year (so not much hope there). Partly this is because I’ve gotten a lot pickier about what I’ll send out. I have abandoned, or shelved, many poems. This is a good thing. Quality over quantity is a good thing.

But if I want my poems to reach the light of day, I need to keep submitting steadily–because my submission : acceptance ratio is very low. I tried to track it one year, and it was depressing. So I send, send, send out work, and it comes back like winter. Then every once in a while, an editor says yes.

Now you might be thinking, “If your acceptance rate is so low, why are you writing about submitting?” Good point! I can’t promise you success, but maybe I can inspire you to get those poems out the (virtual) door by offering a few tips. Think of them as mini pep talks.

  1. Find journals by reading–read the poems on Poetry Daily or Verse Daily or The Poetry Foundation or Linebreak. What other sites do you love?
    Read the books of poets whose poems you love, and check out their acknowledgements pages. Where were they published?
    Read the classifieds section of Poets & Writers. Check out Poet’s Market (which also has some helpful essays on submitting poems). These last two offer a lot of listings, but without the context of the poems–see the next tip.
  2. Read some of the poems that are in the journal. Now that most journals publish at least a portion of their content online, this is pretty easy. Do their poems sound like the kind of poems you write? Are you in the same genre? (Bonus: Reading poems can get you in a writing mood.)
  3. Follow the guidelines–also probably available online. As an editor, I can’t stress this enough. Sure, we all goof it up once in a while. But editors who are volunteering their time appreciate submissions that follow the guidelines. Otherwise, that omission or neglect jumps out and obscures the poems.
  4. Track your submissions so you know what’s where–and if you’re simultaneously submitting, notify editors right away if another journal takes your work. We’ll be happy for you. But it’s really disappointing to accept a poem only to learn that someone else picked it up a week ago. (Even though I’ve tracked my submissions since the 1990s, I don’t feel organized enough to simultaneously submit–so I don’t.)
  5. Use submitting as a procrastination tool. Instead of thinking of submitting as a chore, think of it as a way to avoid other chores. Send out poems instead of cleaning the house. Send out poems when you feel stuck writing. Writing trumps submitting–but if you’re really stuck, submit instead.
  6. Believe in your poems. If you don’t, give them a little more of your time. You want to feel good about these poems you’re sending into the world, and this is not a race.
  7. If/when/however a rejection comes, don’t despair. Well, despair for a little bit–but just a little bit. Each submission is a kind of hope, and each rejection is the death of that hope, so you get to mourn. But then you get to brush it off, focus on the poems, and give them another chance.

Now I need to go work on my next submission.

P.S. For more thoughts on submitting, visit Kelli Russell Agodon’s blog and search for submit.

Make it easier

For yourself. For your editors.

How many times do I have to remind someone to read the guidelines?

Um, constantly, and that doesn’t make it easier for you.

(So much for the brief rant.)

Honestly, I don’t care if you’re fervent. I don’t care if you’re famous.

When you

a) Send more poems than the guidelines specify

b) Send the poems in a manner not accepted (as in, not the manner specified in the guidelines–yes, it’s a theme)

c) Send a submission to the wrong email address (for example, my personal email address)

you make it harder for me–or any editor–to read your poems.

(Yes, this is awkward when I just posted a call for submissions–but I linked to the guidelines.)

If you want me to care about your poems (and I want to care and I want to be transported by your poems), please care enough to do the very basic (and so much easier in this era of the interwebs) research on a journal’s guidelines and follow them.

Thank you.

Wading in, submissions

The walkway partly sunken into the lake

A highlight of the three-day weekend was a Monday walk with my daughter out to Foster Island. One heron flying, and a long spell of time to sit on the rocks, watch the water and the boats and the small boys ripping up the ferns and throwing pebbles, and talk. It was blissful.

Now I’ve been wading into the work week–and ever closer to June. That means two more days to submit poems to The Smoking Poet. Submissions for the next issue are accepted through May 31, EDT. Six poems maximum in the body of the email message, no attachments. For all the details, see the guidelines. (Insert the brief rant here about submissions that don’t follow the guidelines. You can imagine it, right?)

In other submission news, Off the Coast and Hunger Mountain (themed issue) have sent out submission calls.

I spent some time this weekend wading into more book promotion (does that sound better than “marketing”?). On a small scale. I finally made a Facebook page for Into the Rumored Spring. Then I felt reluctant to invite people to it, because I didn’t want to bother them–and I wanted to be sure I didn’t accidentally invite anyone twice. Some days, I don’t trust the user interface. If I missed you and you’re interested, let me know and I’ll gladly add you. If nothing else, it can be a fun experiment in “I don’t really know what I’m doing.” And now that I have this page, I need to line up some Into the Rumored Spring readings to post on it. Hmm…

The rambling rose, showing pale pink petals
The roses taking over

In the meantime, the roses are busting out all over and the calendar’s bloomingFault Lines readings in June and July, and a class at Hugo House. Plus book launch parties to attend and art shows and…I need to get my summer game on. I need to wade into these next long days (and splash around a little). And write.

Mea typo

Yes, the woman who rails against inconsistent punctuation and misspellings in poetry submissions has done it. I have done it.

Mea culpa.

In my cold-slackened state, I posted a poem with a misspelling.

Yes, the phrase is in a different language–but really, if I’m going to use other languages in my writing, I need to proof those parts, too. I hope that in my next life I’ll be able to spell this one on the first try.

I discovered the error while typing the poem’s title into the cover letter field for the online submission manager.

“I should probably double-check that…”

I’ll say!

A flurry of deleting the file I’d attached, updating my copy, uploading the corrected copy.

Not until after I clicked submit did I remember I used the same phrase at the end of the poem.

And I thought, “Really, they might not even get to the end of the poem. It’s a long poem.”

I thought,”Really, how likely are they to accept and publish it anyway?”

But then I thought, “Oh, come on–it’s $3, and who wants to have mistakes in front of people?” Or something like that.

I clicked Withdraw–and then the system asked me “Why?”

I fessed up. And started over.

My revised–and, I hope, pristinely correct everywhere–submission is now once again in play, and I’ll return to my regularly scheduled cold.

Do you have any technical tricks or tips for proofing your poems–anything that tricks your eyes into looking at the words new?