Beating the Bushes (Theodoor Verstraete)
Once I have written a poem, I perform it at open mics, at parties in front of friends (many of whom are poets), and for my wife. Reading a poem aloud tells me how it is received when performed aloud, and also lets me hear things in the poem that I didn’t notice before — things that I might want to change. I also send it to my poetry email list and wait for comments from friends who have not heard it read aloud. I may make changes because of the reactions of others, and I may not. If I have come to care for this poem, I then begin hunting for a journal where I can share it even more widely.
So now I try to look at my poem as an editor might, with an eye to theme, content, rhythm, style, effect, and so on. I try to distance myself from my own feelings and become more analytical. Then I go to one of my three (currently) favorite sources of information about journals — Poets & Writers Magazine, The Review Review and Clifford Garstang’s Pushcart Prize Ranking list.
POETS & WRITERS is one of my favorite sites. Filtering criteria may be chosen near the top of the page. First, I set the “genre” field to “poetry.” Then I usually click on “advanced search” which takes me to a page where I can restrict my search of journals to a “subgenre” such as love, humor, historical, formal, nature/environment, experimental, and more. Sometimes I type search terms into the “keywords” field –– flower, war, sonnets, or whatever category will help me narrow my search. I also specify print or electronic media and can choose whether I’m looking for a journal that pays authors in cash (there are some!) or one that pays with a copy of the issue that contains my poem.
REVIEW REVIEW is a fun site that I mentioned at the close of my December 5th blog entry. It is a fairly recent find for me, but what a find! It has detailed reviews of journals with insights into their philosophy and history. You may find their material so fascinating that it takes away from your writing time, or, even worse, from the time you spend on FaceBook and Twitter.
I just discovered Clifford Garstang’s PUSHCART PRIZE RANKING OF LITERARY MAGAZINES. [I’m happy to say his list is back up after having been down for a few days — 25 September 2015] Journal editors nominate their best poems for the prestigious Pushcart Prizes, and Garstang keeps track of how many Pushcart Prize winners appeared in each journal. Generally speaking, a journal with a lot of Pushcart winners is both very selective about the poems it accepts and quite serious about promoting its poets.
Now you have three excellent places to look for journals, and the next entry will discuss what to do when you visit a journal’s website.