And What A Journey It Has Been!
We apologize for taking a year-long break from blogging. We’ve thought of you often. What has kept us so busy? Well, first, Wisteria from Seed appeared on the publisher’s website, then on Amazon. Finally, with a loud thud, a box of books was dropped at the front door. But Wisteria did not come with an instruction manual.
Well…Jeremy’s been invited to read from his poetry collection in places increasingly distant from home, including the prestigious Book Passage, where Michael Manning, former Arts/Classical Music Correspondent for the Boston Globe, introduced him in a way that was simultaneously entertaining, informative, and erudite. We thank all of the dedicated organizers and poetry-lovers who bring warmth and encouragement to the rooms where poets read.
A year ago we thought we’d be writing about how to find homes for poems in literary journals and then how to create a manuscript, but the list of topics has now expanded to include preparing for a book launch, hour-long guest readings, featured readings, interviews, book signings, and query letters –– all things we wish we’d known about at the outset. In retrospect we can see that we knew people who knew many of the answers, but we did not even know what questions to ask. We hope to help you, in our own small way, to avoid that feeling.
Time has passed, and this means that we, like you, have been hunting for homes for some new poems. We can’t wait to have them read by editors and, fingers crossed, the readers of their journals. There is something wonderfully mysterious about the idea of total strangers reading these poems. Imagine someone reading your poems while sitting on a park bench in a faraway city or reading them aloud to a loved one at the kitchen table.
So it’s time to return to where we left off.
FINDING HOMES FOR YOUR POEMS — 6 STEPS
William Caxton, who introduced the printing press into England in 1476, showing the first specimen of his printing to King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, Queen consort of England, at the Almonry, Westminster (painting by Daniel Maclise). Caxton is credited with standardizing the English language through printing. A stone plaque on the wall of Westminster Abbey, next to the door to the Poet’s Corner, reads,”Near this place William Caxton set up the first printing press in England.” It is said that the spelling of “ghost” with the silent letter h was adopted by Caxton due to the influence of Flemish spelling habits.
Today there are thousands of small presses publishing truly fine literary journals. The Poetry Editors at those small presses are always searching for poems that will be compatible with both their stated mission and their personal taste in poetry. Large numbers of poems arrive each day, and editors hope to see something out of the ordinary, to be surprised. So you will be trying to strike a balance between finding a journal where your poem fits perfectly and hoping editors might respond to a poem that is different from what usually crosses their desks.
Your quest comes down to this: 1) Since there are thousands of small literary presses, you want to discover the editors who are most likely to be interested in your poetry; 2) you need an orderly procedure, since discovering the perfect search pattern for each poem is too time consuming; and 3) you would like to enjoy the submission process.
STEP I — NARROW THE SEARCH
USE LISTS OF LITERARY JOURNALS
Fortunately, a number of writers and editors have set up databases designed to help you narrow your search. In earlier entries we described ten lists of literary journals we have used in the past — you will find all ten links below.
Remember, each database has been set up with different goals. A database may let you narrow your search to particular poetic forms (sonnet, experimental, prose, haiku, etc…), to particular themes (nature, love, death…), to keywords (flowers, war, animals…), or to your choice of print versus electronic media. There is even a list designed by Professor Louie Clay that is designed to protect you from scams.
And here are the six other links we described in earlier entries: Duotrope (just google the journal name + “Duotrope” to see any of their free listings); New Pages; Winning Writers; Poetry Super Highway; Write Habit; and in the UK, United Press.
UNDERSTAND A JOURNAL’S RAISON D’ETRE
After you’ve narrowed your search to a few promising journals, go to their websites and read what the editors have to say on their homepage, and on their “About,” and “Submit” (or “Guidelines”), and “History” pages. That will often give you a clear idea of whether these are journals that might welcome your poems. (Sometimes a description of what the editors are looking for won’t be found until you get to their Submissions page, which is where we found the quote from the North American Review below.)
The editors will usually tell you what they’re looking for in a submission. Sometimes they will tell you a little. Sometimes they will tell you a lot. Bear in mind that over time the flavor of a journal changes –– the journal may have found a new audience and changed its style accordingly; the editorial staff may rotate; or if the journal is affiliated with a college, the readers may be students who leave when they graduate.
We’ll close this blog entry with excerpts from the websites of four of the country’s most well-respected literary magazines. The editors present their vision for their journals—like miniature essays on why we poets write. We have found ourselves reading and rereading these gems, and we hope they will provide you with inspiration during the New Year.
from the homepage of Canary — A Literary Journal of the Environmental Crisis:
from the “About” page of The Yale Review:
from the “Submit” page of The North American Review:
from the “History” page of AGNI: (most journals don’t have “History” pages, but they can be fascinating)
until next time,
Marsha & Jeremy