ON POETRY, WRITING AND RANDOM CULTURAL MATTERS

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Poetry submissions - why bother?

In the summer, when Paris is quieter than usual (see earlier post), I try to concentrate on getting my poetry work out there, by which I mean sending it off to reputable magazines.

I do this so that the acknowledgements page in my next book looks good: it adds credence to my work if more than one publisher thinks its worth putting into print, a peer review thing, and I enjoy reading my contributor's copy of everyone else's work, seeing what others are doing and reading reviews for books I might otherwise miss.

But this is not easy. It's a time consuming business. Each magazine has its own rules and requirements for submission that one must abide by, or receive a summary rejection. You must to read and obey.

In the past magazines required paper submissions by post with SAEs for their reply. Some still do. It is astonishing given the paper wastage involved, let alone the cost in stamps and the complexities if you are not in the UK.

Even if they reply by email, I have largely given up sending to such magazines. It is a pity because some of them are the most prestigious in the country. Why do they persist with outmoded forms of communication? I can only imagine it is to stop the deluge of work that would otherwise come their way, but that's their loss, as many of my fellow poets simply can't be arsed, to use the vernacular, to send them our good stuff. It's just too much hassle.

Sticking to magazines that accept by direct email or Submittable, is simpler, but one still has to keep  to the correct number of poems, in the correct format, a bio of the correct length, write a pleasant cover note, etc. etc. But it is so much easier to hit send.

This year I have been struck by one trend that seems to have snuck over to the UK from the US and I'm not sure I like it that much. That is the use of submission windows, namely periods of time when a magazine is open to submissions, at the price of unread rejection if one has the temerity to try to get around the system or is too useless to comply.

I understand why magazines do this, of course. Again it's to avoid constant deluge and give the hard working, usually unpaid, editors, who after all are a poet's best friend, well earned breaks and stress relief.

However for the incompetent poet, I speak of myself here, it requires the kind of organisation that involves Excel spreadsheets. Yes, really. I have a file for these where I note all the ones I come across.

I just have to work out some kind of alarm system now to link to my calendar and send me a message to remind me when the submission window for magazine X is open, notification from collegiate poets on FB notwithstanding. Any brilliant ideas for an App, peeps? Sharp intake of breath. Onwards, if I want to be published.

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