First off, let me say that submitting and publishing poems is not for everyone, nor does it have to be. But if you are interested in sending your polished poems out for consideration, or even just learning about some of the literary publications that are out there–and please hear me when I say those publications need readers and subscribers!–then this post is for you.
A quick note on rejection: it’s not as bad as it seems. A while back, my best writing pal and I decided to replace the word “rejection” with the phrase “poetry mail.” The negative connotation of “rejection” is just…so negative. Poetry mail, whether it results in you happily updating your Facebook status or not, is much more palatable. As an editor of a literary journal (shameless plug for Blood Lotus!), I can tell you that we’re not always “rejecting” work so much as making a decision about what poems and stories mesh well with each other. If yours is the umpteenth breakup poem we’ve read in a batch, it’s going to have to be stellar to make the cut. If we’re doing a childhood-themed issue, your fantastic story about the virtues of aging is just not going to fit. Please keep in mind that editors often have to turn down high-quality work based on considerations that have nothing to do with your capabilities as a writer. That said, do always send your most polished work.
So, you have a batch of poems you’ve decided are finished. How do you know where to send them? One of my favorite resources is NewPages, an exhaustive list of print and online literary publications, their contact info, websites, reading periods, editorial missions and needs, pretty much anything you need to know. Duotrope is another excellent source, and is known for its 4,000+ searchable database of publishers and their community-sourced statistics on everything from journals with the fastest response times to most competitive acceptance rates.
Pick a few at random, read a couple pieces from the most recent issues to get an idea of the kind of work the journal likes to publish, and keep good notes about which poems you’re submitting and when. For print publications that accept only snail mail submissions, always include a SASE. Send! Or click send!
And now, you wait for your poetry mail.
Is your writing “just for you,” or do you send work out to be considered for publication? If you do, what are some of your favorite journals or magazines?