Poetry Submission Tips From Other Poets

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One of my goals for 2017 is to improve my poetry submission routine. I've noticed over the years that I get published more when I submit more. Of course, rejections happen more frequently too, but that's how it works.

Below are poetry submission tips from a few poets over the years on the Poetic Asides blog.

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Kristina Marie Darling

Kristina Marie Darling

Kristina Marie Darling

"I’ve always been an advocate of starting small. While it’s great to shoot for the top, and send your poems to The New Yorker or The Atlantic Monthly, I think it’s important for writers to realize that there are other ways to build an audience. Publishing in online journals and smaller print magazines can help a writer gain credentials, name recognition, and practice with the submission process. And these are all things that more prestigious journals look for.

"This was certainly the case for me with my poetry criticism. It wasn’t until I had significant experience working with small journals that The Gettysburg Review would consider looking at my clips. And when I wrote my first essay-review for them, I would have been lost without the expertise I gained writing for other magazines."

(Read full interview with Kristina Marie Darling.)

Jillian Weise

"Slick Daniels sent his poems to one journal at a time while I was shadier about it. I had poems out–who knows which ones and who knows where.

"When the rejections came, we shellacked them to stools & sat on them. This plan did work. I sent the same batch of poems to ten journals a month, for about six months, before The Atlantic acceptance. I didn’t know The Atlantic so I looked it up in Poet’s Market. Now I submit where poets I like publish. If Priscilla Becker or Josh Bell or Matthew Dickman or Tim Earley or Kristi Maxwell or Ben Mirov or Abe Smith or Craig Teicher is there, then I want to be there. It’s like calling ahead of time to see who’s at the party."

(Read full interview with Jillian Weise.)

Sandra Beasley

"I try to be as systematic as possible in terms of sending out, by conceptualizing “submission packets” of 4-5 poems each: poems that offset each other well, that advance a certain theme or stylistic gesture. I’ll match a packet with whatever I think the editors at that particular magazine will like best. It makes me nervous if I don’t have things out at at least three journals at any given time. As you can probably guess from that statement, I prefer places that consider simultaneous submissions. As someone who has worked at a number of magazines, I just don’t see any reason not to be open to simultaneous."

(Read full interview with Sandra Beasley.)

Scott Owens

Scott Owens

"Mine is a bit of a hybrid system. I still use the old school technique of creating a folder for each poem and writing on the outside of the folder the date and place the poem was submitted. Those are filed alphabetically, one drawer for those that are currently out and one drawer for those that are currently not out. If they get published, they go to the special filing cabinet. I also keep a pen and paper list of current submissions by journal. All that is to try and not double submit or bug editors with too many submissions too close together. Finally, I keep a spreadsheet of my favorite journals and track submission dates and publication dates so that I don’t let any of them get lost in the shuffle. To anyone technologically-savvy I’m sure this sounds hopelessly archaic, but it’s comfortable for me, and I love the feel of manilla folders."

(Read full interview with Scott Owens.)

Amorak Huey

"I submit a lot. I get rejected a lot. So many rejections. I started seriously submitting my work in February of 2009, and since then I’ve gotten more than 750 rejections. But also, yeah, I’ve been really lucky to have a good number of poems accepted. I’ve learned not to take the rejections personally—but also to listen to them, to be willing to accept that a poem might not be ready yet, may never be ready.

"I tend to submit in spurts, but my goal is to average eight to ten submissions a month. That means I have to always be writing, and I have to always be submitting. It feels crass to be talking about this, like I’m talking about publishing in this very mercenary way, but for me, there are two steps: 1, creating art; 2, getting that art in front of an audience. The commercial/submitting side can never be more important than the creative side, but it’s important not to ignore that part of it, either.

"I keep pretty careful records, tracking my submissions on Duotrope and an idiosyncratic spreadsheet. I do simultaneous submissions, but never in violation of a journal’s policy. I try to send only to journals where I like their aesthetic or the editors’ work or the poems they’ve published in the past. I no longer send to journals that publish in the Issuu format, because I hate it, but I am equally happy to have my poems appear online or in print. I try to be honest with myself about whether a poem is truly ready to send, so that my ambitious, ego-driven, validation-seeking side doesn’t overrule my poet side.

"Did I answer your question? I’m not sure I have a submission routine so much as a submission philosophy."

(Read full interview with Amorak Huey.)

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Robert Lee Brewer is the editor of Poet’s Market and author of Solving the World’s Problems. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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