The iUniverse Blog presents the final blog sequel of iUniverse author Sander Zulauf who imparts his invaluable advice on being an acknowledged poet in today’s largely poetry-ignorant age.
6. Submit your work to established journals and covet your rejections. Many journals are now accepting submissions on-line as the only way to submit your work. Familiarize yourself with magazines before you send your work to them by reading them. When you find magazines you like, support them by subscribing to them – you want them to be there for you when you’re ready to publish. Know the submission guidelines. The pre-internet rule usually required typed submissions sent with a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return of your manuscript with a rejection slip or to send you a treasured acceptance. Philip Appleman advised us in graduate school to remember the “Three Ps”: “Patience, Persistence, and Postage Stamps.”
7. Don’t rely on the kindness of friends and relatives for honest criticism. They love your poetry because they love you. Former US Poet Laureate Philip Levine once offered this advice: “If somebody hears your poem and says ‘It stinks!’ say ‘Thank you’ and move on.” Rejection is more common in poetry than in love. Embrace the experience as a valuable gift towards the growth and maturity of your art.
8. One day you’ll find yourself with dozens of poems published in recognized little magazines, poetry journals, anthologies, and texts. This means editors all over the country believe in your work, so you want to gather the poems and put a collection together for your first book. Contests and publication awards are wonderful adventures, but the odds of winning are pretty long, and most of them require entry fees. Some publishers still issue “chapbooks,” small collections of poems consisting of a few dozen pages. Many of these publications are the results of those poetry prize competitions, but a few publishers will issue them through the standard submission and acceptance process.
Look at the publisher’s poetry lists, read reviews of books issued by that house, know your target.
The online directory published by CLMP, the Council of Literary Magazines and Small Presses
These links are all full of information about current magazines and poetry publications that are seeking submissions.
Join national associations that support poetry and poets. Some of the best are
The Academy of American Poets (membership)
Poetry Magazine and the Poetry Foundation (subscription)
Poets House (membership)
Poets & Writers (subscription)
and the aforementioned AWP (membership)
Here are some of my favorite journals for reviews and news about poetry:
9. “Never never never never never give up.” –Winston Churchill. Even if your favorite publication rejects your poem, revise it and submit it again. The editors can only say no, and the second time they see your work, a memory trigger might go off and they might like your revision and say yes. Emily Dickinson never gave up. Although she wrote over 1,750 poems in her lifetime, she only saw between seven and ten of them published. Her first collection of poems was edited by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (literary editor of what was then known as “The Atlantic Monthly”) and Mabel Loomis Todd. They altered her unique rhymings and startling punctuations to styles more acceptable for the 1890s. We didn’t know her work as she wrote it until Thomas Johnson edited three volumes of her poetry in the 1950s and published about one fifth of them in one volume–“The Final Harvest”–in 1961. Now she is an American immortal. I don’t recommend this as a career path, with the exception of the “immortal” part.
10. Write Every Day. When poet BJ Ward calls me up, he begins every conversation with “Sandy, I hope this finds you having written a poem today. A draft a day and everything else is okay.”
If you have absorbed these “rules” you now have a solid foundation from which you can successfully launch your first collection: the groups you’ve joined, the bookstores you patronize, the open readings where you’ve presented your work. Your book may be reviewed in the journals you’ve supported and which have published you.
First do the hard work and learn your art. MFA writing programs are streamlined ways of accomplishing many of these ten “rules” and learning your art, but it is not impossible to do this on your own if you are determined and devoted to its practice. You will suddenly find yourself embraced by the oldest family on earth – the family of poets.
The iUniverse Blog is grateful to iUniverse author Sander Zulauf for sharing his literary wisdom to aspiring poets and writers in general.
Read the prequels of his iUniverse Blog: