Submitting poetry: the nitty and the gritty

I just wasted spent my day off submitting a grand total of 3 (three) 2 (two) poems. I think a lot of non-writers and even just non-poets who are writers but not of poetry think that getting poetry published isn’t really hard work, because you know, poetry isn’t paid well and there are loads of poetry magazines and websites and basically who would bother if it was painful?

Well, it’s pretty painful. And in terms of effort in versus reward? Skewed highly to effort, not reward. This is how my morning panned out:

Me: I think I’ll submit a bunch of poetry today! Because, you know, it takes a bit of time and I finally have some free time! So plan is to submit all the good poems!

Me: [opening poetry folder] ok here are some promising ones. 5 poems. Shouldn’t be difficult!

Me: [goes to Market A]: Oh, they don’t take simultaneous submissions. Or multiples. Pick one. Ok, well these ones are currently under consideration elsewhere, so that rules them out. This one would be ok but they only pay $6 and I reckon this one is worth a crack at a pro market. So maybe this one? Yeah, good! [Reads the guidelines] [Reads them again] [Re-formats poem] [Constructs email] [Attaches poem] [Submits] [Enters submission in tracking software and freaks out that some guideline was missed or something]

Me: Ok 1 down! [Searches for suitable markets] [Opens a million tabs] [Slowly closes tab after tab because a) don’t accept simultaneous subs b) currently closed to poetry submissions but opening soon! c) current theme is on Space Widgets or Suicidal Cats d) asking for the rights to your firstborn child e) looks like someone’s personal blog rather than a publication]

Me: It’s so tempting to give up right now.


Me: [Finds Market B] [Reads guidelines] [Formats two poems] [Constructs two separate emails as per guidelines] [Hopes nothing is wrong with either submission] [Presses send]

Me: THREE down! Three! Yay me!

Me: Hmmm, I’d really like to submit poem four to Market C, but they are closed. I guess I will sit on that one a bit longer. But maybe Market D would be ok for the fifth poem? [Goes to Market D] [Reads guidelines] [Reads some of the current poems] [Realises that fifth poem is maybe too wanky for them] [Gives up and calls it a day… 3 hours after starting the process]

Me: [sees email in inbox from Market A] [“Dear Stacey, thanks for your submission but submissions are closed because the magazine is closing down soon”] [DIES]


Ok not really the end. But it’s a lot of effort, because you have to read through a lot of submission guidelines to find suitable places, many places are closed temporarily when they fill up or have specific reading periods, some accept simultaneous submissions and some don’t, some are closing down though there is nothing on their website to tell you that, some have very specific formatting requirements, etc. I managed to successfully submit 2 poems in 3 hours (granted I don’t usually have poems returned because the magazine is closing down, but hey it just happened!) And if accepted, I’ll get a maximum of USD$10 for my efforts.

But we do it anyway… why? Because we’re masochists? We want the validation? The slow build of reputation? Maybe it’s the knowledge that someone somewhere likes the tiny piece of our soul that we just flung their way… enough to want to fling it toward anyone who might stumble across it on their pages.

Poetry is a harsh, harsh landscape, my friends…


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