Daily Archives: February 1, 2010

Writing: Submitting Poetry

Okay, I know I just wrote about this in the last few weeks but really, it sometimes pays to hit people over the head. In fact some of these rules apply just as equally to submitting other works as fiction.

Chizine has three poetry editors. Carolyn and I assist Sandra. We also correspond regularly with each other and offer opinions on whether we think a poem is good or not. When reading many submissions, and often bad ones (the ratio of bad poems to good ones is higher than it is with fiction, from what I’ve seen), we might lose perspective. So then we ask each other, Is this good? Does this make sense? I don’t get it.

Sandra distributes the poems to us so she sees everything. Now editors make rules, not because they have nothing better to do, but to manage submissions. And magazines have rules about what they like to print. A smart writer will read these guidelines before submitting. Admittedly some magazines can be overly weird and picky in their particular submission guidelines and do things backward from everyone else. Most magazines ask for double spaced, indent, no extra space between paragraphs, a readable and regular font. Some want you to do single space, no indent, space between the paragraphs, and it seems it’s just to be contrary. Frankly I would stick with an industry standard and if I accepted a piece, then ask the author to reformat to what was needed. But mostly you need to acquiesce to the idiosyncrasies of the magazines and their editors.

We ask for poems to be embedded in the email. Sending an attachment will have your piece summarily deleted. We say no rhyming poems and we mean it. If you are Leonard Cohen, you might be able to send us a rhyming poem but otherwise, don’t bother. If you thought you had the best poem ever and it rhymed, remember that you’re already starting out with a strike against you as we tend not to accept/like them. I told one author she could try but only if she thought it was quite different and very good. I haven’t read it yet but her chances are just smaller because of that, and should I like it, I then have to convince Sandra.

So when poor Carolyn received a submission of about six poems, it broke so many rules that she bluntly told the author what he did wrong. We don’t set a limit on number of poems in one submission but a wise person will send no more than six. Three to five is a common number. First, we don’t take simultaneous submissions. Some authors do them anyways and hope not to be caught. The best way to be caught at it is to put all their email address in the “To:” line of your email. This author did this. Second, the author sent a form letter. Third, he didn’t read any of our submission guidelines. And fourth, not only did he send rhyming poems, he sent the worst ones possible. The following isn’t his poem but is of the same caliber. My advice to any writer, if you write like this, just don’t send your poems out, at all.

I went for a beer
with nothing to fear
hoping for cheer
but something quite queer
made me veer
and now I fear
I’m nowhere near

Yes, they were all this bad. And to top it off this writer (I use the term loosely) signed his name with “The poet and scholar.” If you have the audacity to call yourself “THE” poet, negating the existence of all others you better back it up with credentials including that you are your country’s poet emeritus and have won awards equivalent to the Booker and Governor General’s awards. And if you are the poet who did these things, just be happy that I haven’t put your name down.

In fact, although we haven’t started such a list yet, this guy could get himself on a blacklist. And yes, some magazines start blacklists. If you threaten the editors, send nasty letter, consistently ignore all guidelines, you will be put in the trash file. Bad writing alone won’t get you blacklisted. But idiocy will.

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