Poetry FAQs: Making Your Mark

So an anonymous poet recently sent me the following message:

“I was just curious to know how I can go about getting my name out there and getting my poetry published. I love to write and I am very anxious, but I just don’t know where to start. This is all new to me. If you could help me that would be great.”

To answer this, I’m going to make an assumption that this poet has already spent a good deal of time working on her craft and also on reading other poets–both contemporary and legendary. If a poet has not done this, then that is where to start. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to join a critique group–whether online or off.

Beyond this simple apprenticeship stage, though, there are some things poets can do. First off, submit to print and online publications that publish poems similar to the ones you write. Having an ear and eye for how your work might fit in with a publication is an art in and of itself, and for many poets it takes a long time to develop this skill. But if you apply yourself and try to learn from both acceptance and rejection, eventually you will get the hang of it.

After you’ve accumulated some publication credits, you may have enough material to start putting together a collection of work. While you could submit directly to a publisher, the trend increasingly seems to be to submit to chapbook (20-40 page collections) and full-length book competitions (48 or more page collections).

Once you’ve published your first collection, you can start doing the rounds on the late night talk show circuits and selling out arenas for your mega-popular poetry readings. Okay, so that will likely never happen (but if it does, don’t forget your ol’ pal, Robert, you hear?).

Here’s the super-simplified steps:

1. Read and write a lot of poetry.
2. Get published in print and online publications.
3. Put together a poetry collection.

Simple enough, eh?

If any poets have more to add, be sure to leave a comment below. You know I love hearing from y’all.


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5 thoughts on “Poetry FAQs: Making Your Mark

  1. Amy Barlow Liberatore

    To riff on Margaret’s excellent comments re: organization:

    I always write by hand – but then I key all work in and edit on my Mac. I have a folder on my desktop: Amy Writings.

    Within that, there are folders: Prose, Poetry, The Book (don’t get me started on that behemoth).

    Within Poetry, there are some folders:

    How to Get Stuff Published
    Rejections – Building Blocks
    Sites to Avoid
    Good Sites

    You can easily copy a file into a folder and move it around. I always retitle when submitting, for ex: "A Cup Of Coffee," Pedestal 6-08

    Can’t you tell I used to be an admin. asst.? ha ha good night and good luck, Peace, Amy (Momskas)

  2. Linda H.

    Hello, mjdills.

    Start your own critique group. That’s what I did and we’ve been going about a month now. I emailed a few people from the challenge asking if they would be interested. We got the guidelines from Alessa Leming’s critique group. Unfortunately, I don’t have the website information handy. Alessa, if you’re out there, please help this person!!!

    Basically, for a small group, one person submits material each week on Sunday, the others send helpful comments by Wednesday, the person revises and sends to others by Sunday. A new week begins, a new person submits material, and it starts all over again. I had never been in a critique group before, let alone online, but I can tell you it is really worth it. Post a notice in the forum for people who are interested and give it a try.

    Good luck.

    Linda H.

  3. Margaret

    I would add, keep the poems you write organized and accessible in some way.

    Like you, Robert, I wrote poetry for years before really attempting to publish it. Alas, I was not organized about it, wrote it into various notebooks, etc.

    Finally, I wrote one I wanted to keep, so being a person involved with more than one computer, I looked around for a way to make them accessible to all of them and ended up putting them up first in yahoo briefcase and later in google documents.

    With google documents, I can go back and see (and retrieve, if I need to) prior revisions. I can go back easily and revise old poems. They are handy to submit.

    Having my poems organized and accessible was a real turning point for me. I think it was about a year or two after I started keeping track of them that I was reading an ezine and noticed that I had a poem that fit into the parameters for their current contest. It was a finalist, and this finally got me off my ass, joined a critique group, started reading and writing more poetry, submitting, etc.