Tag Archives: Descant

Writing: Poetry Markets in Canada

I’ve been asked by people where to send poems and what markets there are in Canada. Like the US and probably other countries, there are usually numerous literary magazines, either sponsored by universities and colleges or privately run.

Literary magazines can run the gamut but usually put out a perfect bound (a glue square-edge binding) trade size book, with fewer in a magazine format. The reason for the size is often the break for mailing rates, as well as what is visually pleasing. Of course there are many online magazines or those that do paper and digital at the same time. In Canada, the literary magazines could be funded by the university, provincial or federal arts grants (though these have been cut back to the demise of various arts organizations), advertising or by running contests. The latter has become a popular choice in the last ten years or more, where the magazine will hold a yearly writing contest and the entry fee can be anything from $5-$30 depending on the contest.

The bad thing with this is you only have one chance to win, or three if they have first, second and third places. The good thing is that the magazine continues to run and can pay their authors for their work. Literary magazines will vary in pay for poetry. Many may have a set rate, $50/poem, $10/poem plus a year subscription, while others will have a per page rate such as $25/page.

Other magazines are called genre magazines though I argue that they too are literary even if the focus is on fantasy or science fiction. Some of these are well-established and pay as well as the literary magazines, which on average will pay anywhere from $25-$100 a poem. A hundred bucks is a good price for a poem, unless you’re Margaret Atwood. Then you probably get more because your name will help sell more issues.

The genre and small press magazines are more likely to pay for poems by line or even by word though a fair number also have a set price that they pay . When you get to the small small press, mom and pop magazines run out of the basement of someone’s house it can be a smaller amount paid for a poem. Some of these magazines might only pay in copies and I would never submit anything without at least getting contributor copies. After all, how would you even know they printed your piece unless you had a copy and every writer should be paid. I personally don’t submit unless pay is offered for a poem and I don’t really send my poems anymore to places that offer $2 or $5 but I might. And I do send to some reputable magazines that pay $10/poem.

My reasons might vary with the seasons as to where I send. Some magazines are small and chapbook size  (8.5X11 pages folded in half and stapled usually twice) as this is a simple method for people who do not have the budgets for larger sizes and is a popular small press format. My own chapbook of speculative verse, put out by Kelp Queen Press was of this format.

It used to be that magazines, especially the literary magazines only accepted submissions through the mail. With the advent of computers in everyone’s home, more people started writing poetry and with email they would send off every little drib and drab set down. Magazines find the quality of the submissions is lower when they come through email, and therefore to discourage every would-be writer, they stuck to the snail mail method where people seem to take more time on their piece before they send. This is changing and many magazines are using the online submission format. You register and log in, uploading your file and adding some notes. You get an email receipt and can track where your submission is in the process and the magazine can track when items were received.

Most magazines ask for 3-5 poems at a time. It’s best to follow those rules and follow their guidelines (many of the college run magazines close for the summer when students are away). As to where to send your work; well it should suit the market you’re aiming for. Whereas genre markets require a particular genre and literary markets require the literary genre, when it comes to poetry there is more leeway. Poetry has often encompassed the mythical and surreal, using metaphor and simile liberally so a poem with angels or even a minotaur will have more chance of being accepted in a literary magazine than a story would. Most magazines have an online presence and may have a sample of the writers they publish. It’s always wise to read through these and get a feel for what they prefer or buy a copy if you can afford it.

OnSpec, Chizine and Neo-Opsis are three English language speculative magazines that accept poetry (I’m afraid I’m not up on the French-Canadian markets). Descant, a literary magazine out of Toronto, is open to some speculative elements. In no particular order, some of the literary magazines in Canada are Malahat Review, The Front, Broken Pencil, Capilano Review, Prism, Prairie Fire, Antigonish Review, Arc, Event, Fiddlehead, Grain. There are just as many if not more in the US and the best place to check for poetry markets is www.duotrope.com. For speculative specific markets www.ralan.com is the place to go.

The biggest part, as I’ve said before, in getting poetry accepted is perseverance; that’s both in writing and rewriting and in submitting. But there are many, many markets (even with the economy slump) and places for sending poetry.

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Writing: The Sad State of Poetry in Speculative Fiction

Waaay back, when I first started to get serious about writing, I wrote poetry. Okay I started writing poetry at the angst-ridden edge of twelve, and shelved much of it until my twenties. Eventually though, my poetry grew up and ventured into the world.

My first professional sale was for a whole $1.45 and yes it was a science fiction poem to Star*line. I continued to sell a poem here and there for usually five bucks and a copy of the magazine/book. Then I hit it big and sold a poem to Amazing Stories; $36 USD. Wow! And from that, I was invited (they actually contacted me) to join the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), THE professional organization for science fiction writers throughout North America. (I  don’t think I’d ever heard of SF Canada way back then.)

Thirty-six dollars and SFWA membership. SFWA works on a third of the pie idea. Three pro sales makes you a real writer. One or two-thirds makes you an Associate. You still pay the same amount but you get fewer privileges and can’t vote for the board or the Nebulas. What does it get you? That may be a different post but there is a wee bit of prestige, a very wee bit if you stay Associate forever.

I’ve sold more poems and stories since then, but everything must be speculative obviously for SFWA’s requirements. The publication that your piece appears in must meet the demands of a high production number, be a long running publication, pay pro rates, be American (and a few, very few Canadian magazines), etc. for membership qualification. Oh and poetry, well SFWA decided to drop it like a hot potato. No longer can you become a member on poetry alone. Not even if you’re the best poet in the world. Bruce Boston is probably the best Speculative poet out there. Certainly the most well-known. Canada’s own Sandra Kasturi is no pale shadow either. And there are numerous more.

But here’ is thesad state of the beleaguered poem. Someone got it in their head that because a poem is a hundred words or a hundred lines then why, it’s gotta be easy and fast to write. I’ve spent days, even months writing a poem (in some cases, years, but not constantly). I doubt it was any poet who said, scrap the poems from SFWA. And if three measly poems were just too few for a full membership, then why not make it six or nine or a dozen? Nope, SFWA allows stories, novellas, novelettes, books, even flash fiction in the right circumstances (though I hear that’s iffy) but poetry. Ick. That stuff is for intellectuals pontificating down their noses. Who reads it?

And really, that is part of the problem, isn’t it? Who reads poetry? There is a small point here that I believe poetry is part of the old bardic tradition and really is meant to be heard and seen. Look at poetry slams (a discussion for another day). Many people read it…sometimes, for it to still be bought in some places. But enough? And poetry, well it’s unfathomable, bizarre, esoteric. And spec poetry has just gotta be worse. Doesn’t it? I mean aliens in a story gives you time to paint an elaborate picture, but a vignette? Well, we don’t have time to look at that.

Sigh, there was an era where everyone was taught to read poetry. And what is “The Cremation of Sam McGee” if not speculative poetry? Poetry doesn’t have to be unfathomable or above people’s heads though I’ve had the most straightforward poems rejected by editors who said their audience wouldn’t understand them. Say the poem is confusing but don’t lower the intelligence of your readers, please.

Oh and did I mention that speculative fiction is the worst paid genre out there (except, would you believe, erotic fiction)? Yes, I can write a poem and receive $100 for it from Descant, or a story for a lit mag and get anywhere from $100-$1000, or I can write an article for anywhere from thirty cents a word to a dollar and more. Sure ,there’s a range but if you’re writing poetry and speculative poetry, well you really are the dregs of society. Not even as good as the tentacle waving scum of speculative story writers. No sirree. You’re filler on those pages that don’t have a story long enough.

That is the sad sate of speculative poetry. Alas. And this attitude is often held by those who have never written it or tried to understand it. SFWA has some pretty old-fashioned ideas that makes me wonder on the value of continuing to be a member when I’m a small time Canadian writer.

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