Tag Archives: formal verse

Poetry: To Submit or to Not Submit

That is always the question.

I’ve had a lot of experience with poetry. I began writing it as an emotional outlet around the age of 12 and yes, I have many of those poems still, not that they’re salable. I became more serious about the genre in my twenties and began taking university courses, earning a degree in Creative Writing, which covered the poem as one of three forms.

I’ve written hundreds of poems, published over a hundred and have as many unsold. I am an assistant poetry editor at Chizine, have edited a few books of poetry and have just finished some preliminary judging of the Rannu poetry competition. I’m still learning much about writing poetry and there are a few things that people should consider when writing and considering whether to submit their poem.

A hundred years ago, structured verse was common; it had a rhythm, it had end rhymes and it may have had internal rhyme, plus other styles such as assonance, consonance, alliteration, etc. The rigors of study for such forms is not equaled today. In fact, the fashion of end rhyming a poem has fallen mostly out of favor because people aren’t trained to do it well and therefore make horrible rhyming verse. There are editors, like Chizine’s, who won’t even look at it. From time to time we might but on average it won’t get very far and is a waste of the author’s time. Yes, we’re biased and with good cause. It’s often bad bad bad.

There are exceptions to rhyme and rhythm and that is if you are doing an older form of poetry that requires rhyming lines or a particular structure, such as haiku, villanelles, sonnets, roundels, etc. But they take practice in working the form and making good choices for rhymes. So overall, if you’re a new writer, don’t rhyme. There are many magazines that will not buy rhyming or formal verse of any kind.

There are then the many overused metaphors and clichés that we recommend you don’t use in a poem because it’s a surefire way to get rejected. Of the top of my head, here are a few: my heart drums, twinkling eyes, fluffy kittens, fit as a fiddle, the eye of the storm, the tip of my tongue, heart on your sleeve, mad as a hatter, heart of gold, and on and on. If you’ve heard it too often then it shouldn’t be in a poem. Sometimes a poet plays off of a metaphor or cliché and twists it to great effect. Individual words that are GRAND CONCEPTS can be a hard sell as they take a great deal of finesse to pull off. Sandra keeps very entertaining poetry submission guidelines at the Chizine site with the gothic poetry generator: http://www.deadlounge.com/poetry/created.html. If any of your poems sound vaguely like these ones, don’t submit them. They’re emo but they’re not necessarily good or unique. Think twice before you use words like love, death, heart, blood, tomb, womb, life, etc.

Last that I’m going to touch on today is theme. Some themes have been done to death (another cliche; indeed they can serve a purpose). If you’re going to write about love, death, nature or a host of perhaps less familiar topics then you need to be sure you’re doing it in a unique way. My life as a clam is likely to be more interesting than my life as a man, woman, vampire. I see poems like the ones I used to write and I realize how much they reflect the maturity of the writer. When I say maturity I don’t mean age but experience in writing. With a poem, before you submit, you should always read it aloud. It’ll help you catch a lot of things.

All of these “don’ts”  are of course rules that can be broken but an artist works best by knowing the rules well first. It takes a deft hand and you can still run against an ingrained hatred or fear with editors. If we’ve seen too many death poems (and we see a lot at Chizine) we may already believe it’s going to be another one of those death poems, no matter how unbiased we try to be.  Poems can take as long to write as a story. Check them for clichés and metaphors, overused themes and images, and for originality. And then when a poem sparkles and shines, by all means submit it to a magazine.

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Writing: Unfathomable Poetry

There are many styles of poetry, or maybe I should say bad poetry. Crossing my desk as an assistant reader at Chizine, I see a range of good, bad and confusing. http://www.chizine.com/ There are the rhyming poems. The cultural convention of today has fallen away from rhyming poetry, partly because most people don’t have the depth of education on forms to write it well and the result is bad rhymes. Joyce Kilmer’s poem is touted as one of the worst poems of all time, at least for its time, but not just for the rhyme but also the gooeyness. Still, Trees was an immensely well-known poem and sat on the wall in my childhood home for years. It was easy to memorize such lines as “I think that I shall never see/a poem as lovely as a tree/a tree whose hungry mouth is prest/against the earth’s sweet flowing breast…”

The rhyme was pretty simple and that style has turned off most editors from even considering rhyming poems today. Chizine doesn’t even accept formal verse “of any kind” yet we do get a few rhyming poems. Formal verse is poetry that uses the effects of rhyme, meter or form, especially in fixed styles like sonnets or Glossa. Without the full literary educations that most people once had anyone with a pen or a computer pops down a few lines and thinks they should rhyme. “I saw a cat/it had a rat” is simple beyond belief. Rhythm and meter are difficult aspects to master. I’ve only got the hang of it sometime so I tend not to do many poems with meter. Free verse that lacks rhyme, meter, form, etc. may still end up with its own form or internal rhythm. It’s part of how our brains and our language work.

Besides forms of poetry, the other deciding factor in most rejections or acceptances is the content and how well it is written. Sandra Kasturi, the poetry editor for Chizine, has written pretty entertaining guidelines, but she’s serious about them. The goth poetry generator is listed http://www.deadlounge.com/poetry/poems.html because there are many bad poems, especially if they deal with fantasy, horror or dark fiction. Here’s my gothomatic poem:

Around, all around, the mourners gather.
My dread grows as doom’s scythe falls against my eyes.
It mutilates me, and darkly my
essence drips
to the barren land.
In numbness I fall limply
while oblivion takes my hand.
Now alone, my supplication falls upon blind eyes.

This is my salvation

Ook. Words like dread, death, blood, lifeblood, life, eternity, etc. are overkill and overdone. There are far too many poems like this already and yeah I’ve written some in the past too. But at least this poem progresses forward.

Some writers feel that every noun needs an adjective and you end up with an ungainly, shambling monster, reaching, ever reaching with bloodstained hands for the swollen brains of crying editors. And worse. Some poems constantly tell you how the narrator feels with such lines like, “I feel tired and fading. I feel the crypt ooze around me. A creepy feeling comes over me. I felt life leaving.” And sometimes it’s that often in a poem.

Then there are the unfathomable poems. I call some of these the descent into madness poems. There are authors who will string together very diverse thoughts or images. Sometimes they go together or you can glean a story from the sequence. Sometimes the poem goes on with no rhyme or reason. One poem might be intriguing but more than one has me going, well I can do this too but it won’t sell my poem. Here’s an example, made up on the spot, of an unfathomable poem, though indeed you might find a tale in it, if you look hard enough:

At midnight the rabbits died
I was once a ballerina falling
there is no reason to a songbird’s warbling
green fungus adorns my windowsill
cry, little monster, he yelled as he shot
god’s green earth likes to fester
cerulean are the bluebells of my memory
I could not get the toaster working
warthogs gore to maim
I will leave after the eyes rot.

Tada! A poem of madness. Yes, I get poems like this. I try to look for the story and there should be something the poem is saying besides random stringing of lines, though there have been poetry schools that go for sound more than content. But I’m not a big fan of those unless they go under the realm of sound and music. But what could I glean from this poem? Well, there is a majority of dark imagery, death and violence. Rabbits die, ballerinas fall, fungus is a form of rot sometimes, earth festers, someone shoots monsters, warthogs gore and eyes rot. A toaster not working might also denote chaos or things breaking down. God is mentioned but is it significant and the only positive line has to do about memory. Songbirds warbling could be positive but there is the negative spin of no reason for it. Granted I wrote this without thinking; still, this is the process I would go through in looking at someone’s mad poem. I would conclude some dystopian or descent to madness or unmaking. But I’m not sure I’d buy it, trying to correlate some of those images.

Even a madness poem should tell a tale, one way or another. There are of course, many other types or themes of poems but I have just received several unfathomable poems that I’m still trying to fathom in case I’m just not bright enough. The bottom line is that I look at whether the average reader will be bright enough to “get it” and since I’m at least average I’ll conclude from there.

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