Tag Archives: rhyming poems

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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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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