Friday, 30 October 2009

don't send your poem anywhere else

Having read the 3 posts directly below this one and having decided that you don't give a monkey's toss if the next millennium's BBC listeners are still voting Kipling's If as the nation's favourite poem and that the nation's favourite poems are poems of the dead and that they will always outnumber those of the living by 91 to 9 and for some crazy reason you still have an uncontrollable and unquenchable burning desire to write, or as Bukowski says "It comes bursting out of you!, what should you do next?

First thing to do is to read a selection of contemporary poetry magazines or at least take a look at some poetry websites and bookmark those which publish poems you enjoy reading. Then select the publisher you like the best. The one you feel an affinity with (or is it to). Target the editor of your chosen publication with a batch of original and unpublished poems. The standard rule, which is two rules in one, is that the sweat of your brow should not have been previously published and is not currently being offered elsewhere.

But be realistic. The high peaks of the blue mountains are almost unassailable to the common man without a rope and a guide. I recall that Dylan Thomas, to make the point, once sent T S Eliot a two-line contribution which was basically a two-finger reply to TSE's begging note requesting a contribution to a TSE-edited anthology. Needless to say, DT's so-called submission was never published.

Unless you're atop the blue peak and skiing through the poetic stratosphere and drawing folding money for your work, the copyright will remain with you as the author. Some poetry journals impose a mild condition upon the author; a one year time limit before publication of the item elsewhere for example.

Having accepted one of your efforts, since there was nothing better, the editor is entitled to some respect. He or she dislikes nothing more than suddenly seeing your poem glaring back at him from the pristine pages of a rival publication or a blog. The editor, if he survives the shock, will feel sick to the core. It's as if his/her nether region has been violated. Certainly the editorial in-tray has.

One publication that poets, from blue peak mountaineers to street corner bards, might consider submitting work to is the established and reliable broadsheet Poetry Scotland (website I enjoy the fact that the website is regularly updated and I like editor Sally Evans' criteria: she will keep your poem for possible publication if she likes it. That's the bar. No need for doubles all round in a Callander pub nor any name-dropping required at the local poetry mic.

In 2007 I had the pleasure of reviewing Poetry Scotland nos. 43 and 44 for Gerald England at New Hope International. In no.43 I found good work from Ian Crockatt, Irene Brown, Allyson Kiddle and Judith Taylor and in no.44, a special issue dedicated to the late Derek Jarman, I was impressed by Lesley Harrison's collection of poems Mare Marginis especially Pytheas and his Journey North°.

°Pytheas - Greek navigator who sailed to Iceland in 4BC.


  1. The "nation" have never been any good at deciding anything - we would still have the Death Penalty if it had been down to them - and i am sure their favourite music would be something very banal too.(Can you be VERY banal - it sounds too much of a bad thing)?
    Love the batty NASA pic. We have two bats here and they have been here for years - can only assume they are both the same sex unless of course each two is the offspring of the previous two, if you see what I mean.
    Thanks so much for the birthday wishes.

  2. Well, I think 'the nation' has got one or two things right over the years - although I can't think what they are just at the moment.
    I think NASA must have had some good feedback from their batty pic - they've left it up again today. We have some bats in the local park. They fly back and forth over the duck pond at sundown. I expect yours are in the barn* are they?
    *nearly put 'in the bar'.


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