When and where should I publish my poetry?
January 16, 2010 8:38 PM   Subscribe

When should I start looking to publish my poetry, and where should I publish?

I have been an amateur poet for a quite a while. I am currently a student and have a fairly small collection of poetry. (No books anytime soon!) I am unsure as to when I should start publishing my work. If the time is right, I don't know where to begin. I only know well known publishers/journals that would be unlikely to accept amateur work. If you have any experience here, I would love to hear about it.

posted by Lizsterr to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
There's no time like the present to start submitting your work!

If you're looking to publish poetry on a poem-by-poem basis, there are many online journals that are willing to accept such submissions. One good place to check out is Duotrope's Digest, an online listing of fiction/poetry markets. Duotrope even has a search engine specifically for poetry markets. You can specific by length, genre, etc. Very nifty! Sometimes fiction anthologies will accept poetry, too.

Now, be warned that most markets are low-paying--if they pay at all. But there's something thrilling about having your poetry published as part of a larger journal or anthology. And with each published poem, your credibility as a poet grows.

I'm in the same boat as you: I'm an amateur poet in love with the poetic form. This past autumn, I decided to start submitting fiction and poetry to online/print markets. I haven't had any bites for my fiction--oops!--but to my delight, I've had two poems accepted. One market even paid me $5 and sent me a fancy contract. ;) Aiming for publication has really sparked my creative fire re: writing poetry.

Good luck!
posted by ElectricBlue at 9:29 PM on January 16, 2010

ElectricBlue's advice about Duotrope is great! One specific market I'd like to suggest is elimae, which is very friendly to new, talented poets. It's also a good idea to read lots of magazines extensively, to give you a good idea what's being published right now.

Something to keep in mind is that even people with books are, likely, "amateur" poets--people just don't make a living writing poetry anymore (well, except Billy Collins) and the poetic education that some people get via graduate degrees is a relatively new idea. Which is to say, most poets will have started out like you, working on their own. If you can take a poetry workshop at your college, that will be a good place to learn solid editing skills to help you prepare your work for publication. It will also expose you to other poetry--good and bad--and help you get some perspective as to whether or not it's ready for publication.

Once you've decided it is ready, feel free to take a look at this .pdf guide I created back when I taught poetry workshops for my students who were interested in publishing. It takes you through specific steps to submitting your work. Hope it helps!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:44 PM on January 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

I don't know what school you go to, but a school with a decent literature/create writing program probably has it's own student run poetry journal. If this is the case, often you'll have the bonus of being featured alongside relatively established poets like those in your school's faculty. You may even be able to stack the odds a bit by getting on the editorial board which usually involves a not super huge time commitment.
posted by juv3nal at 2:39 AM on January 17, 2010

The above advice is great--Duotrope has revolutionized the process of submitting for me, and online submissions revolutionized the process before that. Take advantage of them. With many online markets, you can even check the status of your work. I submitted to Boston Review last year, and after a while the submission manager was updated to show that my poems had made it to second read, and then updated to show that a poem had been accepted. It was cool to see the inner workings of the process like that; it was like watching the slowest-moving thriller of all time. (Of course, if my submission had ultimately been rejected, it probably would have been a bigger letdown than if I couldn't see its status at all, so bear that in mind as well.) It's also easier to research markets these days, since print journals will often put a few poems from each issue online. You might try following Poetry Daily and Verse Daily as well, to get a wider idea of what magazines publish the poems you like. Verse Daily is especially good about supporting online journals.

Now just let me put in a good word for simultaneous submission, since more often than not it gets knocked in these threads. I didn't start having more-than-sporadic success in publishing poetry until I began submitting simultaneously--really, until I began treating submissions almost like a second job. This is especially true if you're submitting to competitive or higher-tier publications. It really increased the chances of acceptance exponentially, at least for me. Research the markets to make sure they accept sim-subs, and keep detailed records of where you've sent what. I find it helps to separate my poems into set batches and send those out to a number of appropriate markets, rather than creating different batches for each market. It's much easier to keep track of that way. Whenever I receive a rejection, I mark it down in my records, and whenever I receive an acceptance, I mark it down and then write withdrawal notices to the other markets who have the work. They are always extremely nice about it--they'll often congratulate you, or ask to see more work. I've only had a piece accepted at two places once, and I just wrote the second publication to inform them and everything was fine.

PhoBWanKenobi has good insights about the more existential aspects of submitting--when is a poem ready to send out, can they tell I am an "amateur," etc. (Short answer: probably not, unless your poems are printed, like, in Jokerman on scented paper.) Heed her advice. My personal rule is, never send out anything that I would be hesitant to see in print, and never send to a journal that I would hesitate to let publish my work. Pretty simple, really. Good luck, and feel free to MeMail me if you have other questions. I send out a lot of submissions, and the process of submitting poetry for publication is pretty much the one subject in creation that I feel comfortable dilating on at length and with confidence, because I am Tragic.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 3:03 PM on January 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

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